Help Me, Mr. Mutt


Written by Susan Stevens Crummel, Illustrated by Janet Stevens

Harcourt Books, 2008

Do you have people problems?  Are you always in the doghouse?  Don’t yelp, get help!  Write to Mr. Mutt, Canine Counselor.

The plot in a nutshell:  An advice-giving dog answers letters from fellow dogs with problems.

That cat is clearly up to no good.

That cat is clearly up to no good.

This very funny book takes a look at the world from a dog’s point of view and poses questions that our dogs might ask an advice columnist.  Each letter comes with ‘photographs’ and each letter writer seems to live in a house with a cat (with whom they also have issues, naturally).  The ‘issues’ are pretty hilarious, including a portly dog complaining of being put on a diet, a beleaguered Basset Hound whose owners insist on dressing him up and a St. Bernard whose bed is just not big enough for his “biiiiig” body.

Mr. Mutt’s replies are wonderful, including graphs and charts to help illustrate his point, and they shine a little light on the canine frame of mind.  (Apparently, when dogs lick their owners’ faces, they are not kissing us, they are getting dessert.)  He also includes a disparaging remark about cats in each letter, which prompts his own feline housemate to answer him with a letter of her own, signed “The Queen.”  The book culminates in a mighty battle between the two of them, told through pictures and newspaper clippings.

Author/illustrator team Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel are sisters who have collaborated on several books together.  The book jacket also includes a photo and bio of Mr. Mutt, which is really cute.  And, for those who enjoy looking for hidden objects, the book’s back cover features a list of items to search for.  (I have to admit that I couldn’t find them all.)  All in all, a really fun read.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that advice, no matter where it comes from, is always best taken with a grain of salt (or a handful of kibble).


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