Woof, A Bowser and Birdie Novel, by Spencer Quinn (Scholastic Press, 2015, 293 pages, $16.99, grades 3-6)
But Can He Write for Kids?
In a word, YES!
Spence Quinn (not his real name) is the best best-selling author of the Chet and Bernie series of who-dun-its for adults told by Chet the Dog, so when I saw Woof, I simply had to grab it.
I was not disappointed - at all. Think of Woof as a Chet novel for grade-schoolers.
Then I found out that Quinn (really Peter Abrahams), writer of crime thrillers, also has a crime thriller series for teens, The Echo Falls Mysteries, starring a girl sleuth! Yippy skippy!
As a matter of fact, nobody knew that Quinn was Abrahams’ pen name until he was ‘outed’ by Sarah Weinman who did some sleuthing of her own once Quinns’ first of seven dog thrillers, Dog on It, became so popular.
Back to Woof
If you love Chet like I do, you will love Bowser, a Poodle-Shepherd-Bernese (probably), adopted straight out of a shelter in Louisiana by 11-year-old Birdie and her Grammy to be in charge of security at 19 Gentilly Lane. If you haven’t met Quinns’ Chet yet, chances are you will want to, after meeting Bowser. I’ll wager even youngsters will start reading the adult Chet and Bernie books – at least until another Bowser and Birdie book comes out, and one will – there are plenty of hints in Woof along with some rather loose ends that could be neatly tied up in a sequel. Or two.
Bowser knows he’s happy when his tail begins to wag. He also thinks his Birdie is the coolest thing since ice cubes during a steamy hot Louisiana summer (he says she is ‘off the charts’). He likes to sit on Birdie’s foot, nice and comfortable like.
He compares his teeth, which sometimes get a sudden urge to bite (a bad guy) to the small, dull teeth of humans, and his extraordinary sense of smell to the nearly non-existent sense of smell of humans, despite their big noses. He states it best this way: “With her [Birdie’s] brains and my everything else we were going places.” (p. 237)
Bowser is a lovable canine who just may keep you in stitches. “I trotted over to Birdie. She didn’t turn off the flash[light], instead pointed the beam down at the floor. The shadow of a real big dude stretched across the floor. The fur on my neck rose straight up and stayed that way until I realized the big dude was me.” (p. 100)
Birdie is far from a perfect little girl but she is full of spunk and courage. Yes, she does get into trouble, sometimes at night when she sneaks out of the house to go sleuthing but she always has her sidekick along – big Bowser who helps protect her and also helps solve crimes.
The Plot Thickens
Birdie and Grammy run a bait and tackle shop in the bayou. It is summer. Unfortunately, when the store clerk Snoozy falls asleep on the job, an old stuffed marlin, Black Jack, hanging on the wall is taken. Rumor has it that inside the prize marlin is a treasure map, a real treasure map.
To read more about this rumor and be entertained and educated in the meantime by Bowser, check out Woof at your local library this summer or get it at your independent bookstore.
Woof! It’s ‘off the charts!’