Smells Like Dog reminded me a lot of Eva Ibbotson in her more Dickensian work: larger-than-life characters with silly names, colorful settings, and plot lines that circle back in the end.
Meet Homer Pudding, an ordinary farm boy who's got big dreams-to follow in the footsteps of his famous treasure-hunting uncle. But when Uncle Drake mysteriously disappears, Homer inherits two things: a lazy, droopy dog with no sense of smell, and a mystery.
Join Homer, his sister Gwendolyn, and Dog on an adventure that will test their wits and courage as they leave their peaceful farm and head into a world where ruthless treasure hunters hide around every corner. Where they discover that Dog has a hidden talent and that treasure might be closer than they ever imagined. . .
I read the first two chapters out loud to my siblings, 11, 8 and 5. They enjoyed the characters, and the prose: “she almost always sat slumped real low in her chair, like a melted person…” That phrase has made it to our dinner table more than once since reading Smells Like Dog.
Sometimes I like cheekiness in narrative. When Selfors writes, “Running away from home is not a good idea. Unless, of course, you happen to be forty years old, and then your parents will probably shout, “Hurrah!” and change the locks…”
However, there comes a point in cheekiness when a book is almost pinching its own cheek. People who are eaten by turtles. Law firms named Snooty and Snooty. That sort of tone I don’t enjoy. Eight to twelve year olds, on the contrary, usually do. I roll my eyes at ridiculous characters like the aforementioned lawyers (who remind one suspiciously of Dickens’ cheery Cheeryble twins) as they bash each other on the heads with umbrellas, but I know for a fact that my eleven year old brother would laugh out loud.
So there you are.
The book that begins, “The following story is a dog story, but it is not, I repeat, NOT, a sad dog story” will be a great sell to elementary students who enjoy plenty of vim and bustle in their fiction. The novel is not all comic relief, certainly, but without a doubt, you will hear snickers.
ARC courtesy of the author.