by Spencer Quinn
Series:Bowser and Birdie, #1Hardcover, 293 pg.
Scholastic Press, 2015
Read: May 14 – 15, 2015
One quick sniff and I knew that BLTs were in that basket. BLTs were an odd human invention, sandwiches filled with weird tasteless stuff no one in their right mind would be interested in — except for the bacon. In case you missed that, I’ll mention it again: bacon!
This is just cute. That’s all there is to it. A cute MG novel, featuring a nice little girl with a lot of spunk and her new dog, Bowser. A fun mystery novel with a lot of heart.
Birdie Gaux is an 11-year-old mix of Flavia De Luce, Izzy Spellman, and Inspector Gadget’s niece Penny (from the original cartoon, natch). Fiery, spunky, determined, far too curious and independent, a little too comfortable with shading the truth/outright lying, with a clever dog friend. While her mother works on an offshore oil rig for months at a time, Birdie lives with her grandmother and helps in the family’s struggling bait shop. She doesn’t remember much about her father, a police detective killed in the line of duty when she was very young.
After getting Birdie her late birthday gift, our new friend Bowser, Grammy and Birdie stop at the bait shop to discover they’ve been robbed, while the comic relief employee napped a bit. The only thing taken was Grammy’s stuffed marlin — a family heirloom passed down from her father after his return from World War II. The adults — Grammy, the Sheriff, and the napper are ready to write the marlin off as a lost cause, but Birdie’s not.
Birdie and Bowser are galvanized into action — she’s sure she smells cigar smoke in the shop, and Bowser finds the remains of a cigar nearby for her, convincing Birdie that she’s right. The Sheriff is a nice enough guy, who’s more than willing to listen to Birdie’s thoughts about the case (listen — not really act upon) — but he’s not going to invest too much energy into investigating the theft of a dead fish, no matter the sentimental value. So Birdie, with the help of some friends (including the Sheriff’s son) and a nice — and easily confused — woman from the local retirement home, sets about hunting for the missing marlin (and some secrets that may be hidden within).
There’s a little danger, peril and excitement along the way, but nothing inappropriate for the age group. Bowser gets the worst of it, honestly, while Birdie is mostly safe. There’s some hints of problems looming for Grammy, some dark events in Bowser’s past, and that sort of thing. The sharper young readers will catch that, others won’t — it’ll either add some nuance and flavoring to the experience or it won’t — nothing that will affect the understanding of the story.
Quinn is much beloved around here for his series of novels about Bernie, the P. I., and his partner Chet the Dog — narrated, as this book is, by Chet. For the sake of diversity, I was hoping that Bowser wouldn’t narrate the novel in Chet’s voice. But he does — which is mildly disappointing for me, because I’d rather get the original. But as for attracting new readers — particularly a new demographic? It’s perfect. And while sure, I grumbled occasionally while reading — and here — about Bowser being Chet without the Police Dog Training, it’s still a fun voice. One that you have little trouble imagining would belong to a dog.
Not the most demanding of reads, nor the most complex of mysteries, Woof is a pleasant introduction to a new series that I hope will be around quite awhile, I look forward to getting to know Birdie, her dog, her friends and family a lot better. I imagine that soon enough, I won’t be alone, and that Quinn has found himself a whole new fan-base.