A clever book for a clever dog, Dear Mrs. LaRue collects a series of guilt-inducing letters sent home by the cat-chasing, chicken-pie-eating Ike to his "cruel" owner Mrs. LaRue, whom he hopes will come to her senses and spring him from obedience school.
Desperate to come home, Ike shows great enthusiasm for stretching the truth about his treatment at Brotweiler Canine Academy. Illustrator and author Mark Teague has developed a hilariously disdainful and dignified voice for the not-very-put-upon Ike, but Teague's most cunning innovation is the book's format: He splits each spread between what's really happening, done in color, and what Ike's imagining and exaggerating to Mrs. LaRue, in big thought bubbles using dramatic black and white. As Ike delivers his first letter, in his thought bubble we see Ike carted away in the Brotweiler Canine Academy paddy wagon ("We Aim to Tame"!), up a windy road to a scary-looking quasi-Transylvanian compound, complete with lightning and bats; in full-color reality, Brotweiler looks much more like the UCLA campus in spring bloom, with a sign pointing to the sauna (on the right) and the pool (on the left).
Ike's first carefully typed letter pleads, "How could you do this to me? This is a PRISON, not a school! You should see the other dogs. They are BAD DOGS, Mrs. LaRue! I do not fit in." Subsequent letters describe the staff ("The GUARDS here are all caught up in this 'good dog, bad dog' thing"), the "crimes" that landed him there ("I'd like to clear up some misconceptions about the Hibbins' cats. First, they are hardly the little angels Mrs. Hibbins makes them out to be. Second, how should I know what they were doing out on the fire escape in the middle of January? They were being a bit melodramatic, don't you think?"), and his eventual plans for escape ("I'm sorry it has come to this, since I am really a very good dog, but frankly you left me no choice"). Teague drew inspiration from a couple of sneaky dogs in his own life; kids and grownups reading Ike's tall tales might be reminded of loyal and misunderstood pooches of their own. (Ages 4 to 8) --Paul Hughes
From Publishers Weekly
A dog's life is hardly to be envied if one believes the words of Ike, a rambunctious pooch sentenced to obedience school by his exasperated owner, Mrs. LaRue. Having repeatedly terrorized the neighbors' cats and snatched one snack too many from the kitchen counter, Ike finds himself enrolled at Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy. The hero begins a clever letter-writing campaign to Mrs. LaRue that paints a grim (and hopefully guilt-inducing) picture of his Brotweiler experience. But readers are privy to the hilarious truth. Teague (How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?) depicts the pampered pup at the spa-like academy in brightly colored vignettes, juxtaposed with black-and-white prison-like scenes that illustrate Ike's imagined hardship. He composes his correspondence with dramatic flair, whether describing his "inmate" experience ("The guards here are all caught up in this `good dog, bad dog' thing") or reflecting on his misdeeds back at home ("Were the neighbors really complaining about my howling?... Let's recall that these are the same neighbors who are constantly waking me up in the middle of the afternoon with their loud vacuuming").Throughout, the devilish laughs are in the details (waiters in white coats serving academy dogs gourmet meals and frozen drinks; Ike's images of a hard life in striped prison garb plus ball-and-chain). Even the duo's reunion (to much fanfare) plays off of an earlier joke. All in all, a tail-wagger of a book that will have readers howling with amusement. Ages 5-8.
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