When my 7-year-old first pulled Dog Man from the bookstore shelf, I was skeptical. But then she cracked it open and started to read it out loud. I think it was either about Flippy, the telekinetic fish, or Petey, the flat cat… and suddenly I was laughing! In the bookstore!
Here are the reasons I believe that Dog Man, a “crime-biting canine who is part dog, part man, and all hero!” has become a #1 New York Times bestseller that’s so popular with young readers:
The humor. From the “weenie-lution” of oversensitive living hot dogs (“We’re not cute, either! We’re gangsta!” insists their very touchy leader)… to Flippy, the telekinetic fish, who has “bionic supa strength,” kids love Pilkey’s sense of humor. And, yes, this inludes the funny bits about bodily functions. But c’mon now, Everyone Poops, right?
The illustrations. Pilkey’s illustrations pull you to the page, and colorist Jose Garibaldi really takes them up a notch. Jose is a really talented illustrator, painter, and cartoonist who has created work for Dreamworks, Scholastic, Dark Horse Comics, Disney, Nickelodeon, and more.
The wisdom. I love how Pilkey incorporates themes of empathy, kindness, and persistence into every chapter, to encourage readers to grow and be themselves. There are many lessons of patience and forgiveness in Dog Man, as well as the encouragement to think creatively when you’re stuck.
The respect to great writers. Pilkey acknowledges Charles Dickens, John Steinbeck, William Golding, and Jack London in his books, and he does this so cleverly.
Sarah Hatoff. As a news reporter myself, I love this character. In fact, on Instagram, Pilkey’s posted: “Not a lot of people know this, but Sarah (one of the smartest, strongest, and bravest characters from the Dog Man series) is actually based on a real person named Sarah Hatton… Sarah is our dear friend from Australia.”
The heart. Pilkey writes from his own childhood experience. In an interview with Scholastic, he says: “George and Harold are definitely based on me. They kind of developed their own personalities after the third book. They both have ADHD, like I do, and they make comics, like I did.”
In another interview on the “Today Show,” Pikley adds that he also has dyslexia. In second grade, “My teacher didn’t know what to do with me. So she was sending me out into the hallway.” His mom took him to the library every week, and he says, “I started to associate reading with love. And it changed everything.”
The 7th book in the Dog Man series, For Whom the Ball Rolls, is on B&N bookshelves today.