When you and your four-month-old canine companion are the first two beings to walk the park after a snowfall you are both taking in the messages left by the wild inhabitants. You can see the tracks of many deer, rabbits, birds and paw prints looking suspiciously like those of a fox. Nose to the ground your furry friend is zig-zagging all over the path inhaling the scents left behind by those very animals. Over and over her nose sticks into a deer track like its ambrosia, then she'll lift her head to perhaps get a whiff of the same smell on the breeze.
On February 9, 2016 readers met a happy-go-lucky Jack Russell terrier and his short human girl. Fenway and Hattie (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC) written by Victoria J. Coe with spot interior illustrations by Kristine A. Lombardi gives readers insights into the mind of this dog through the story told from his perspective. Both Fenway and Hattie are challenged by their move from the noisy city to the quiet suburbs in this first book. In a companion title, Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang (G. P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, January 24, 2017), Fenway's vigilance and professionalism are tested constantly as he tries to protect Hattie and her family from new nasty intruders.
I'm out in the Dog Park behind our new
house, enjoying a refreshing roll-around in the grass
when I pick up the despicable smell of rodent. It can
only be one thing---a squirrel.
First chasing a pesky squirrel from their Dog Park, Fenway is now happily engaged in play with Patches and Goldie, the dogs of Muffin Lady, Tool Man and Angel, their next door neighbors. While Hattie and Angel are chatting about Angel's new jacket and tickets to Fenway Park (which momentarily intrigues Fenway), he decides to take a short cut through the vegetable garden to get an edge on Goldie and Patches but stops dead in his tracks. What is that terrible stench?
Not only is the smell hideous but something has been digging in the dirt and has ruined all the new little plants. There's only one dog for the job of discovering these villains and it's Fenway. As he sets out to track down the culprits, the damage is discovered by Food Lady. She is not happy at all. Fenway gets blamed for the mess and Hattie is scolded for not watching her dog. Hattie lifts him up just as he locates some tiny pellets.
Relegated to the front yard, Hattie and Fenway notice their neighbors, Whisker Face and Round Lady, coming home across the street. Hattie bounds over to them and seems excited by the result of their conversation. Fenway, on the other paw, smells that particular foul odor all over the couple. It would appear there is a gang of these evil creatures throughout the neighborhood.
Fenway keeps pursuing the smell in the garden and discovers more damage, a hole under their fence. He's even more determined to protect his family and the yard even though Goldie and Patches tell him the critters are called bunnies and supposedly harmless. It hardly seems like they are harmless when Fenway keeps getting blamed for their destruction.
Just when Fenway thinks it can't get any worse it does. The object of the happy conversation with Whisker Face and Round Lady ends up in their home. Fenway does not believe what Goldie and Patches tell him. It just can't be true. On top of all this Hattie seems more distressed than she should when she looks out her bedroom window and into Angel's back yard. What is going on in Fenway's humans' home?
Several disasters set events in motion which only Fenway (and Hattie) can fix. Fenway knows he must do that which goes against his most basic desires. But...he will do anything for the happiness of his human.
When Victoria J. Coe writes about dogs for dogs, readers are inside the dog's skin, living their lives and thinking their thoughts. She seems to have an almost supernatural connection with them sensing the world as they do. Each situation is viewed, smelled, tasted, touched, and heard as only a dog can. She ties us so closely to the character of Fenway we find ourselves wondering how his humans could fail to understand what he has to do.
In this particular story Fenway shines brighter than ever but Coe deftly weaves other elements into his narrative. She addresses human responsibility for completing tasks, jealousy between pets and humans, the give and take in relationships and the value of differing personalities. Both Fenway and Hattie are growing as individuals. Here are some sample passages.
Panting wildly I chase him through the grass. My sides are heaving, but I will not give up! I'm gaining on him! I'm about to grab his flouncy little tail---
But that nasty squirrel hurls himself onto the side fence. He scurries to the top and dives into the Dog Park next door.
"And don't come back!" I bark, thrusting out my chest in victory. Ridding the Dog Park of squirrels is a tough job. But luckily, I'm a professional.
I rush back to Hattie, who's headed toward the porch. I jump on her legs. "Great news!" I bark. "The nasty squirrel is gone."
She scoops me into her arms, showering me with kisses. She must be awfully grateful I saved her from the dangerous threat. Again.
"Hattie!" Food Lady sounds upset. She
sprints across the porch, nearly tripping over Hattie's
tangled jump rope.
"FEN-way!" Hattie cries, her voice high with alarm. She charges at me right toward the danger!
I free my hind leg and dart around the ripped zucchini leaves. That nasty creature could still be at large. Anything could happen! "Nobody panic. I'll find the troublemaker!" I get back to sniffing like crazy.
Food Lady speeds through the grass. "FEN-way!" she snaps. Her arms wave. Her eyes bulge. She's clearly even more upset by the danger than Hattie is.
How can I play at a time like this? That Evil Bunny Gang might be plotting their invasion. They could be tunneling into the Dog Park at any moment. I have way too much work to do.
The action is nonstop. The humor will have you laughing out loud. The love will have you looking for the nearest dog to hug. Fenway and Hattie and the Evil Bunny Gang written by Victoria J. Coe with spot interior illustrations by Kristine A. Lombardi will have you flipping pages as fast as you can wondering how this bundle of energy is going to prove to his humans how professional he truly is. You will be talking about this book as often as you can to readers. I would plan on multiple copies.
To discover more about Victoria J. Coe please visit her website by following the link attached to her name. If you follow the link to my blog post about the first title you can view many more additional resources. On July 21, 2016 Victoria J. Coe was interviewed at It's All About the Journey. Both the cover reveal for this title and the premiere for the book trailer were unveiled at Scholastic's Ambassador of School Libraries John Schumacher's blog, Watch. Connect. Read. You'll enjoy the conversations and glimpses into this book. Teacher librarian Jennifer Reed writes on her blog, Reederama, about an activity she did after sharing portions of this book with her students. Educator Michele Knott shares her thoughts about this book on her blog, Mrs. Knott's Book Nook.