‘Woof’ by Spencer Quinn: Middle grade version of the Chet and Bernie series


Rating: 4 1/2 stars

Adults love the Chet and Bernie series of books told in narrative form from the mouth of Chet, the dog. (“Paw and Order” was the seventh book in that series.) As in that series, “Woof: A Bowser and Birdie Novel,” also is narrated by a dog, this time named Bowser. And readers of the adult series will swear that Bowser is Chet’s alter ego.

Quinn (or in real life author Peter Abrahams) loves New Orleans, so it may come as no surprise that this children’s story is set in Louisiana in a small town on a bayou. Birdie lives with her grandmother because her father died and her mother is an engineer on an oil rig. For Birdie’s birthday, they go to the pound to get a dog. Birdie picks a large dog who had spent some hard time with drug dealers.

Part of his difficult previous life lends some humor to his narrative — especially when he’s talking about his need to use his teeth for biting, although Bowser heroically refrains from actually biting. At least most of the time.

The mystery begins almost immediately when the large mounted fish in the Gaux (pronounced “go”) family fishing store is stolen. The rumors are that there was a treasure map hidden behind one of the fish’s eyes, although Birdie first learns about that during the course of the story. The mystery deepens; Birdie runs afoul of some local neer-do-wells, and she tries to investigate the mystery with the help of her new dog, Bowser.

The story is well-written, engaging, and at times, touching. Birdie wishes she had had a chance to get to know her father, a police detective, and she tries to emulate him when searching for the missing fish. Bowser is typical Quinn dog-speak. He gets side-tracked by great smells, fishy sounds, and other doggy distractions. But he remains a loyal narrator and helps the reader to know more than Birdie actually knows. If only dogs could talk!

This story would be a great classroom read aloud or choice for any adventure-loving and animal-loving young reader. Recommended for ages 10 though 14.

Please note: This review is based on the final hardcover book provided by the publisher, Scholastic Press, for review purposes.