Friday, January 1, 2016

Puppy Pirates: Stowaway!, X Marks the Spot by Erin Soderberg, illustrated by Russ Cox

I'm always looking for new beginning chapter series. Sometimes I have specific things I'm looking for; more diverse characters, easier read-alikes for popular middle grade or teen series, or a specific request. Sometimes I'm just looking to see what's new and interesting, which is why I asked to preview this new series.

Farm puppy Wally is wandering around the docks, hoping to find a real home and adventure, when two pirate pugs sail through the air and land right in front of him! He immediately decides that being a puppy pirate is for him, but the other tough puppies just laugh. That night, he stows away on their ship and meets another stowaway; a scruffy boy named Henry who also wants to be a pirate. He was thinking more of people pirates, but puppies are good too. The puppy pirates are skeptical, but agree to give them a chance and they prove themselves during battle with the kitten pirates.

In their second adventure, the puppy pirates have gotten their paws on the treasure map of Growlin' Grace and they're off to search for treasure! It will take all of Henry's pirate knowledge and Wally's courage to save the day and find the treasure. SPOILER the treasure is, of course, the promise of more adventures.

The black and white illustrations sprinkled throughout the stories remind me of an 80s cartoon featuring anthropomorphic dogs. Not that it's a bad thing, and no I can't remember exactly what it was, but they do. The illustrations are cute enough, although they contradict the story (not that it's super logical anyways) as when Henry mentions that he'll be useful because he has thumbs, but the illustrations show anthropomorphic dogs swinging on vines, holding maps, etc. with thumbs.

Although Wally and Henry, the heroes of the stories, are of course boys, there is a fairly diverse cast of both male and female puppies. The series isn't as sententious as it could be, although it does get close sometimes with the wise advice of Old Salt and the "treasure" of the second book.

Verdict: Kids who like mild adventures and cute dogs will happily devour this series. It's certainly a unique premise, although the characters and plot aren't particularly unusual. If you have pirate fans in your community, this would definitely be a fun purchase.

Published 2015 by Stepping Stone/Random House: Review copies provided by publisher; Donated to the library for prizes

ISBN: 9780553511673

X Marks the Spot
ISBN: 9780553511703

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