Words by Kelly DiPucchio; pictures by Christian Robinson
Antheneum Books for Young Readers, 2014
Picture book, fiction
YHBA nominee, 2016-2017
Interest level: K-3
Reading level: 2.8
3 out of 5 stars
Mrs. Poodle admires her new puppies, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston, all the size of teacups, except for Gaston, who is more the size of a teapot. It is clear to readers, that Gaston is not the same type of dog as his poodle siblings, but he tries harder than anyone to practice good manners, yipping, and and walking with grace, and his family loves him.
One day the Poodle family goes to the park to play, and they meet another dog family — Mrs. Bulldog and her puppies, Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette. All the Bulldog puppies act brutish and love to roughhouse, but Antoinette does not look like her siblings. The two families soon realize that some type of mix-up occurred and Antoinette and Anton were switched and have been raised with the wrong type of dogs. The two puppies switch places, and everyone soon realizes that even though they are now with their same kind, they don’t fit in. The families race to the park the next day to switch back and make the families whole again.
Christian Robinson’s painted illustrations are simple, yet convey perfect emotion. Gaston, and all the puppies, are adorable and will be a hit with children. The length of the story, appeal of the characters, and illustrations would make this an excellent read aloud.
I must admit that there were some things that I didn’t like about the story. The beginning is wonderful. It is easy to see that Gaston is not the same as his poodle siblings, but yet they love him, treat him the same, and his hard work pays off. All wonderful messages. I felt that once the bulldog family was introduced and they were brutish and unsophisticated, the idea of dog stereotypes really bothered me. That image is kind of shattered by the ending, when the two misfit dogs go back to their original families because their same-breed families don’t feel right. This is probably not something that young children will pick up on, but I also don’t like perpetuating unfair stereotypes–even in dogs.