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Great Illustrated Books

Smart Dog

By Vivian Vande Velde

Harcourt Children, 1998
Pages : 160
Suggested Ages: 8-11
ISBN: 0152018476

On her walk to school, fifth grader Amy Prochenko encounters a medium-sized, long-furred brown, white, and black dog with floppy ears. "Excuse me," he says, "I'm in trouble. Could you please help me?" Though she is panicked at encountering a talking dog, Amy stops to listen. The dog's name is F-32, and he is running away from his cage, having just escaped from the Research Department's lab at the State College of New York in Rochester. It seems he's overheard Dr. Boden, who is in charge of the lab, talking about his intention to dissect the dog's brain. F-32 is one ultra-intelligent mutt. Not only can he read, he's even taught himself to use a computer, pressing the keys with a pencil held between his teeth. Amy renames him Sherlock, after the great detective Sherlock Holmes, and brings him to school where she cautions him to hide outside in the bushes until school lets out at 2:30.

Amy has her own problems. Poison-tongued Kaitlyn, the most popular girl in her class makes frequent barbed remarks and sabotages her whenever the opportunity arises. And now she has Sherlock to worry about. How Amy becomes friends with classmate, Sean, who helps her hide Sherlock from college students hot on his trail, and, with Sherlock's help, gives the dreadful Kaitlyn her comeuppance, makes for a breezily funny and clever school story. For alternate scenarios with personable talking dogs, also read the "Martha" picture books by Susan Meddaugh, beginning with Martha Speaks, and Lois Lowry's rags-to-riches novel, Stay!: Keeper's Story, about a poetry-spouting stray who takes charge of his life. S. E. Hinton's little novel, The Puppy Sister, is a delightfully fantastical story of Nick's new puppy, Aleasha, who learns to talk and slowly develops into a human child.

Reviewed by : JF.

Themes : BULLIES. DOGS. FANTASY. HUMOR.

If you love this book, then try:

Amato, Mary. The Word Eater. Holiday House, 2000.


Broach, Elise. Masterpiece. Henry Holt, 2008.


Cleary, Beverly. Henry Huggins. Morrow, 1950.


Cleary, Beverly. Strider. Morrow, 1991.


DiCamillo, Kate. Because of Winn-Dixie. Candlewick, 2000.


Duncan, Lois. Hotel for Dogs. Houghton Mifflin, 1971.


Hinton, S. E. The Puppy Sister. Delacorte, 1995.


James, Mary. Shoebag. Scholastic, 1990.


King-Smith, Dick. Harriet's Hare. Crown, 1995.


King-Smith, Dick. The School Mouse. Little, Brown, 1995.


Korman, Gordon. Swindle. Scholastic, 2008.


Lowry, Lois. Stay!: Keeper's Story. Houghton Mifflin, 1992.


Lubar, David. Punished. Darby Creek, 2007.


Martin, Ann M. Everything for a Dog. Feiwel & Friends, 2009.


Martin, Ann M. A Dog's Life: The Autobiography of a Stray. Scholastic, 2005.


Meddaugh, Susan. Martha Speaks. Houghton Mifflin, 1996. (And others in the Martha series.)


Michael, Livi. City of Dogs. Putnam, 2007.


O'Connor, Barbara. How to Steal a Dog. Farrar/Frances Foster, 2007.


Sachar, Louis. Sideways Stories from Wayside School. Morrow, 1998, c1978.


Seidler, Tor. Mean Margaret. HarperCollins, 1997.

Critics have said

"His attempts to replicate the behavior of regular dogs will have readers giggling. "
Publishers Weekly