If it weren’t for the writing, I might have enjoyed Flawed Dogs The Novel by Berkeley Breathed. Its message, like that of Breathed’s picture book, is one everyone should read. But where the picture book conveys this message through cute illustrations and whimsical verse, the novel warps this message through bitter heroes, violent storyline, and a writing style that is sometimes painful to read.
Parts of the plot work. Sam the Lion, a dachshund featured in the picture book, escapes from a show dog owner. He jumps into the car of Heidy, a young girl also featured in the picture book. In the full-length novel, she’s headed to live with her uncle because she has recently lost her parents in a hot air balloon accident while they searched for a champion Tibetan yak nibbler hound. Now Heidy hates dogs. At least, she hated them until she meets Sam, who dares to bestow on her a doggy kiss. The two bond, but their happiness is interrupted by her uncle’s poodle, Cassius, who resents not being center of attention. When it turns out Sam is also valuable due to a unique “duuglitz tuft,” Cassius plots Sam’s downfall. At this point, the plot works less well, because how Sam eventually exacts revenge is rather preposterous.
I can forgive an outlandish plot, if there is enough suspense in it to make me still want to know the outcome. Yes, I might develop that bad after taste one feels after eating artificial icing, but the treat itself will still be pleasant. However, I cannot so easily overlook a book’s style. At times, I felt as if reading the work of a student who has discovered adjectives: “… pulses of hot mist shot into the frigid air from a gaping pink throat.” Other times, I felt as if caught in a frenzied madcap movie that doesn’t believe in quiet moments: “Beachball explosions of fuzzy air.” It’s unfortunate that the style is so off-putting because Breathed’s heart in the right place. As in his picture book, he has an incredible message to share: Dogs need love.
Unfortunately, the negative portrayal of the supporting characters hurts this theme. In his picture book, we see only the rejected dogs and the bad owners are those who through ignorance reject their dogs for trivial reasons. In his novel, almost every character besides Sam and Heidy, are awful. Dog show people are portrayed as wealthy, fur-wearing, and heartless; it is inconceivable that they can love their pets. Or so Breathed would have us believe. Actually, the humans in general come off as unpleasant. Even the dogs receive a raw deal from the author unless they come from a pound. According to Breathed, it’s impossible that dogs can be both beautified and nice.
I’m not even sure how much I like the book’s heroes. Heidy essentially steals Sam from his rightful owner, because the owner seems to care more about his looks than his heart. Sam is no longer the unloved but adorable dog of the picture book, but a revenge-seeking dachshund. I felt betrayed, the way children do when they realize that their perfect parents are flawed. There’s that word: “flawed”. In the picture book, the dogs’ flaws come across as cute annoyances. In the novel, Sam’s character flaws overshadow his physical flaws. For example, Sam not only seeks revenge on Cassius but also on dogs who have done nothing except to be part of a show. The novel leaves me cynical, defensive, and resentful. Surely, this is not what Breathed intended.
Ever since the release of Flawed Dogs The Novel hit the headlines, I have watched for it to become available locally. For this reason, I was disappointed with how much I dislike it. I had hoped to love it, buy it, and recommend it to all of you. Alas, I will have to content myself with rereading Berkeley Breathed’s picture book about shelter dogs. I suggest you do too.
My rating?Leave it: Don’t even take it off the shelves. Not recommended.
Américas Award for Children’s & Young Adult Literature
CLASP founded the Américas Award in 1993 to encourage and commend authors, illustrators and publishers who produce quality children’s and young adult books that portray Latin America, the Caribbean, or Latinos in the United States.
The Caldecott Medal was named in honor of nineteenth-century English illustrator Randolph Caldecott. It is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children.
The Carnegie Medal is awarded annually to the writer of an outstanding book for children. It was established by in 1936, in memory of the great Scottish-born philanthropist, Andrew Carnegie.
The Christy Awards are awarded each year to recognize novels of excellence written from a Christian worldview.
Coretta Scott King Award
The Coretta Scott King Book Award titles promote understanding and appreciation of the culture of all peoples. It is given to African American authors and illustrator.
children and young adult blogger literacy awards
Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award
The Dolly Gray Children’s Literature Award was initiated in 2000 to recognize authors, illustrators, and publishers of high quality fictional and biographical children, intermediate, and young adult books that appropriately portray individuals with deve
Hans Christian Anderson Award
The Hans Christian Andersen Awards is given to a living author and illustrator whose complete works have made a lasting contribution to children’s literature. The award is the highest international recognition an author can receive.
Kate Greenaway Medal
The Kate Greenaway Medal was established in 1955, for distinguished illustration in a book for children. It is named after the popular nineteenth century artist known for her fine children’s illustrations and designs.
Middle East Book Award
The Middle East Book Award recognizes quality books for children and young adults that contribute meaningfully to an understanding of the Middle East and its component societies and cultures.
Mythopoeic Fantasy Award
Honors fantasy books for younger readers, in the tradition of The Hobbit or The Chronicles of Narnia
Newbery Medal Award
The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.
Pura Belpré Award
The award is named after Pura Belpré, the first Latina librarian at the New York Public Library. It is presented annually to a Latino/Latina writer and illustrator whose work best portrays, affirms, and celebrates the Latino experience.
Red House Book Award
The Red House Children’s Book Award is a series of literary prizes for works of children’s literature published during the previous year in England.
Sydney Taylor Award
The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience.