McDuff Goes to School


Written by Rosemary Wells, Illustrated by Susan Jeffers

Hyperion Books for Children, 2001

A new name was painted on the mailbox at number nine Elm Road.

The plot in a nutshell:  McDuff and his new neighbor attend obedience school together, but he doesn’t learn all his lessons.

McDuff is a West Highland White Terrier whose owners have recently had a baby.  Marie Antoinette is a Scottish Terrier whose owners move in next door to McDuff’s house.  Her owners speak French and have different house rules than McDuff’s family.  When his parents realize he is not as well behaved as she is, they enroll him in obedience school and Marie’s parents bring her along to school as well.  Although they are told that practice is essential, the new parents are too busy and exhausted to practice with McDuff.  He watches while Marie practices with her owners and joins in.  At the class final exam, McDuff fails to obey any of the commands until he hears them in French from his neighbor.  They all have a picnic to celebrate their success.

Somebody play Stevie Wonder's 'Ebony and Ivory!'

Somebody play Stevie Wonder’s ‘Ebony and Ivory!’

Author Rosemary Wells is well known for the Max and Ruby series of books (and accompanying television show).  She usually does the writing and illustrating for her books, but the McDuff series features Susan Jeffers as the illustrator.  She’s a wonderful choice, because the pictures are adorable.  Westies and Scotties are lovable toy breeds and are portrayed here in all their cuteness.  (She gets bonus points for including a pug in one of the pictures of the class.)

There are a lot of French words and phrases in the book, but they’ve kindly included a pronunciation guide in the back of the book.  (If you’re reading it aloud and don’t know any French, be sure to familiarize yourself with this guide first.)  I enjoyed this book, but would have liked to have seen McDuff’s parents acknowledging that their neighbors deserved the credit for his success and/or resolving to spend more time helping with his training.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that education takes time & effort, but is worth it if you want to be sure your little ones are learning the right lessons


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