Friday, October 23, 2009

Down Girl and Sit! (series) by Lucy Nolan, illustrated by Mike Reed

This Cybils review includes my own nomination: Down Girl and Sit: Bad to the Bone by Lucy Nolan, illustrated by Mike Reed. First, a quick recap for those unfamiliar with this delicious series of beginning chapter books.
In the first story, Smarter than squirrels, We meet Down Girl, her friend Sit, and her arch-nemesis, Here Kitty Kitty! Down Girl explains the secret of their success as watchdogs - they are smarter than squirrels. Unless there are doughnuts around. Down Girl meets and defeats Here Kitty Kitty with the help of a mysterious monster, finds some excellent smells, has an exciting adventure with Sit, and makes some new friends.

In the second Down Girl and Sit adventure, On the Road, Down Girl and Sit tell the reader about all the exciting things they do in cars, from a trip to the beach, going camping, and....oh horror! a trip to the vet! Will Down Girl survive the humiliation? Maybe, if Down Girl gets to "drive" the car!

And now, the newest adventure - Bad to the Bone. Down Girl and Sit are worried about their masters. First, Down Girl's master just doesn't understand how dangerous Here Kitty Kitty can be. She touches things! She takes things! Down Girl must save her special rug from the evil clutches of Here Kitty Kitty. Next Down Girl and Sit's masters don't understand the two basics needs of a dog; food and attention. Down Girl and Sit decide they need to be bad to the bone to get the attention they crave. And it works! The next problem is that Down Girl's master doesn't understand how dangerous the neighborhood could be at night; and that Down Girl needs to be going in and out, protecting everything. But that's not the worst thing - Down Girl and Sit get taken on a nice walk to the park and meet a fun group of new dogs....and their masters forget their names! First they are calling everyone Sit. Then they are calling everyone Down Girl. Then they are calling everyone Hush, the name of the dogs' new friend! Down Girl needs a new method to train Rruff, her master, and she needs it fast before he forgets who she is!

So, are these more than just funny stories about dogs? You bet. The reader is not just laughing herself sick, she's learning about layers in stories; figuring out the contrast between what the narrator, Down Girl, is saying and what's really happening. Beginning readers are learning to pick up on textual cues that point to an unreliable narrator. They're learning to see a story from different perspectives. And they're having a whole lot of fun! Kids will love the feeling of being "in the know" as they pick up on the subtle humor that's not too hidden for them to grasp. The black and white illustrations, from small insets to half-page spreads will help them get the essential humor of the narrative - Down Girl thinks she is in charge, helping her master, and getting things done, while in reality....well, she's certainly in charge! The writing style is concise, brisk, and humorous, the plot tightly and logically constructed, and the illustrations add visual cues to the story; everything a perfect beginning chapter book should be.

Verdict: Hand these out to kids looking for funny stories, stories about dogs, books with chapters, and to teachers and parents looking for good read-alouds.

Smarter than squirrels
ISBN: 978-0761451846; Published September 2004 by Marshall Cavendish; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

On the road
ISBN: 978-0761452348; Published October 2005 by Marshall Cavendish; Borrowed from the library; Purchased for the library

Bad to the bone
ISBN: 978-0761454397; Published November 2008 by Marshall Cavendish; Review copy provided by publisher for Cybils; Purchased for the library

No comments: