Great Illustrated Books

Help Me, Mr. Mutt!: Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems

By Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel

Harcourt Children, 2008
Pages : 56
Suggested Ages: 5-10
ISBN: 9780152046286

If you think Cesar Millan, TV's Dog Whisperer, gives good advice, wait'll you meet Mr. Mutt, a certified Canine Counselor. Desperate and beaten down dogs send heartfelt letters and attached photos to Mr. Mutt, a bespectacled and solemn-faced brown dog, and he responds with practical dog-centric advice. "And remember, you are TOP DOG!" he reminds each letter-writer. To "Famished in Florida" a sausage-like dachshund whose people have put him on a diet, Mr. Mutt advises looking for new sources of chow, like countertops, the trash, or under the high chair, and finishing off with a cool drink of water (from the toilet, of course). He ends his reply with "P.S. Cats are spoiled rotten. It's never fair."

Mr. Mutt may be the authority in his field, but underneath his work desk, you'll notice a Siamese cat in a tiara, wielding a quill and a pink piece of stationery. That's The Queen. Don't mess with her. For each thoughtful response Mr. Mutt writes to his dog fans, he adds a disparaging remark about cats. The Queen, unamused, sends him threatening notes, until, having had enough of his "catty remarks," she puts him out of business. Mr. Mutt's fans don't take that lying down. Janet Stevens's soulful and comic mixed media illustrations of overburdened dogs and inscrutable cats are the cat's meow.

This riotous picture book will surely spark passionate debates between dog and cat lovers on which make the better pets and why, and it could get kinda heated. If there are pets in your house, ask your kids to speculate what they might complain about. In response to the letter Mr. Mutt receives from Washed Up, regarding too many baths, read Nick Bruel's Bad Kitty Gets a Bath, which will make everyone fall on the floor in hysterics. In Eileen Christelow's comical picture book, Letters from a Desperate Dog, Emma, a brown and white dog, writes letters to the "Dear Queenlier" column of the Weekly Bone, seeking advice on how to deal with her human, George.

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If you love this book, then try:

Bruel, Nick. Bad Kitty. Roaring Brook, 2005.

Bruel, Nick. Bad Kitty Gets a Bath. Roaring Brook, 2008.

Bruel, Nick. Poor Puppy. Roaring Brook, 2007.

Christelow, Eileen. Letters from a Desperate Dog. Clarion, 2006.

Cronin, Doreen. Diary of a Worm. HarperCollins, 2003.

Gravett, Emily. Meerkat Mail. Macmillan, 2007.

Hall, Donald. I Am the Dog, I Am the Cat. Dial, 1994.

Hicks, Barbara Jean. The Secret Life of Walter Kitty. Knopf, 2007.

Kirk, Daniel. Dogs Rule! Hyperion, 2003.

Stevens, Janet. The Great Fuzz Frenzy. Harcourt, 2005.

Stevens, Janet. Tops & Bottoms. Harcourt, 1995.

Stevens, Janet, and Susan Stevens Crummel. And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon. Harcourt, 2001.

Stevens, Janet, and Susan Stevens Crummel. Cook-a-Doodle-Doo! Harcourt, 1999.

Teague, Mark. Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School. Scholastic, 2002.

Teague, Mark. Detective LaRue: Letters from the Investigation. Scholastic, 2004.

Teague, Mark. LaRue for Mayor: Letters from the Campaign Trail. Scholastic, 2004.

Critics have said

Stevens's mixed-media scenes of the pets' ultimate altercation contain the most fun: The Queen demonstrates her prowess with a digitally manipulated ball of yarn as she, taking umbrage at a feline insult, keeps her canine cohort too "tied up" to help his correspondents out of the doghouse.
Publishers Weekly