Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Review - Izzy in the Doghouse

Izzy in the Doghouse
by Caroline Adderson
illustrated by Kelly Collier
Date: 2020
Publisher: Kids Can Press
Reading level: C
Book type: illustrated chapter book
Pages: 168
Format: e-book
Source: NetGalley

From the author of the Jasper John Dooley series comes a new lovable character: Isabel! The first title in this early chapter book series tells us why Isabel just has, has, has to get a dog!

Isabel and Zoë are favorite friends --- most of the time. They have side-by-side cubbies at school. They never take off their friendship bracelets. And they make each other laugh like nobody else. But some of the time, Isabel isn't Zoë's favorite friend at all. Because some of the time, the fun things they do end in a no-fun way. Like how they've been sent to the principal's office because of Isabel's shenanigans with some kindergartners. Now Zoë is mad at Isabel, and Isabel is miserable. Isabel is trying everything to win her friend back. Will getting a new puppy help Isabel mend her friendship with Zoë?

In this first title of the chapter book series for emerging readers, author Caroline Adderson introduces the inimitable Isabel and how she came to have her lovable dog, Rollo. Short chapters, spot-on humor and engaging illustrations on every spread make this series a perfect pick for both independent reading and read-alouds. Highly entertaining and fun, it also showcases the personal growth and development of the main character, while touching on subjects of interest to elementary-age children: relationships with friends, the responsibilities of having pets and family situations of all kinds, including how Isabel, who lives with her single mother and a nanny, loves the story of her adoption (and its similarities to their adoption of the dog)

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I can sum up this book in one word: boring.

A chapter book should be easy to read. More than that, though, it should be interesting. This one is not. In the very beginning, we're introduced to a strange (and highly annoying) child. Throughout the book, she does odd things like eat dirt, chew on electrical cords, and lick her friend's face. What was probably supposed to come off as quirky came across as pathological.

My main issue with this book is the plot. Isabel and her friend Zoë have a falling-out after Izzy's odd behaviour gets them both in trouble at school. I figured that Isabel trying to mend the friendship would be the main plot of the book. Unfortunately, it's not. The book goes rambling off on a tangent about Isabel's adoption, then veers into dog-adopting territory, all while the kid acts like a bit of a narcissist. As it turns out, everything can be solved by getting a dog, and Isabel and Zoë's friendship is magically mended with the appearance of Rollo (the puppy).

I didn't like the secondary characters any better than Isabel, either. Her mother was kind of awful (ignoring her child most of the time so she could focus on her work, at one point even telling Isabel that "those are the kinds of questions you might wonder about, but not ask." Way to blow off your kid!). Rosa, the nanny, was kind of useless; she was always watching her soaps. (The relationship between the two women was also... strange. Were they a couple? Rosa had apparently been around since Isabel was a baby. Her mother adopted as a single woman, and then hired a live-in nanny right away so she could keep going on business trips? I guess that's possible, but the way Rosa was included in the family unit made me think there was something else going on there. Which would've been fine... had it been addressed.)

It took me forever to finish this, because the story just didn't draw me in. The overly easy resolution to the main conflict (which was the rift between Isabel and Zoë) made for one unsatisfying read. I will say, though, that the illustrations are kind of fun. I wish there had been more of those.

Overall, this was a big miss for me. I don't know if it's really going to hold the interest of kids, either. A book that's almost 200 pages needs to be able to deal with the main plot conflict without resorting to irrelevant padding.

Thank you to NetGalley and Kids Can Press for providing a digital ARC.

Plot: 1/5
Characters: 2/5
Pace: 2/5
Writing & Editing: 3/5
Illustrations: 3/5
Originality: 2/5

Enjoyment: 1/5

Overall: 1.86 out of 5

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