Dog vs. Ultra Dog
Dog vs. Ultra Dog
“What if Bosworth is a teeny-tiny bit right? I’ll never be the ultra-est dog in the universe – but I bet I can be the ultra-est at obedience!”
So when Tim said, “Shake a paw,” Tuffy shook all four. When Tim said, “Fetch a stick,” he fetched a stack. And when Tim said, “Roll over,” he rolled and rolled and rooooooolled.
Tuffy loves his boy Tim, and Tim loves Tuffy… doesn’t he? When Tim becomes obsessed with a fictional superhero called Ultra Dog, Tuffy doesn’t mind at first. But then a local cat begins to whisper doubts in Tuffy’s ear, and Tuffy becomes determined to be the best dog that he can be in order to earn Tim’s love. As his efforts lead to one disaster after another, Tuffy despairs of winning Tim’s affection back from Ultra Dog. While the details of this story are unique, this is a premise that we have read before with tropes that verge on tired (e.g., a cat that undermines a dog’s confidence for kicks). Fortunately, both the story and book design are done well which elevates this title above many of its similarly themed brethren.
With a design reminiscent of comic books, the layout and art are well-suited to a story that is (tangentially) about a superhero. The font resembles handwritten black marker but is clear and easy to read. The story is delivered in a combination of traditional text on page, voice bubbles, and environmental text. The narrative is easy follow with book elements being arranged in a thoughtful and logical manner. This is no small feat considering the detail and action that are contained in each spread! There is a lot to see here, and attentive readers will enjoy poring over the pictures. The illustrator has done a good job of adding to the story and amplifying humorous elements from the text. Tuffy’s well-intentioned shenanigans and the presence of underwear jokes will tickle young readers pink. Tim’s character is depicted as having brown skin and medium-length hair, a refreshing variation on the typical boy protagonist found in picture books.
As stated earlier, the premise of a friend being threatened by the presence of a rival is not new, but in Dog vs. Ultra Dog, it is done well. The story is laid out clearly and structured in a way that is both dynamic and easy to follow. The vocabulary used is not rich in rare words, but it is used playfully (“beyonder”) and to good dramatic effect. A small quibble with the story is Tuffy’s extreme angst about Tim’s love. It is unclear why he so greatly doubts Tim’s affection. Other than Tim’s obsession with Ultra Dog and Bosworth-the-Cat’s allegations, there do not seem to be any other indicators that Tuffy is uncared for. This makes Tuffy’s desperation somewhat mystifying.
A familiar story delivered with verve and humour, reminding us that love is not about what you do but who you are.
Sadie Tucker is a children’s librarian at the Vancouver Public Library.