The title and lively cover art of a dog performing kung fu, scuba diving and playing the piano are well chosen for Jeanne Andersen’s rhyming picture book about a dog called Louie who likes to try human activities. In addition to the activities depicted on the cover, the multi-talented dog watches a scary movie, dresses as a ghost for Halloween, visits Honolulu and more, as the book progresses.
The activities are fun, and the rhymes that describe them display a strong sense of enthusiasm and occasionally entertaining word play. On one page, Andersen writes: “Traveling is an adventure for my dog, Louie./He flew across the ocean to see Honolu-ey.” On another: “Last winter was so chilly for my summer-loving Louie./ He caught an awful cold and sneezed, Ahhhhhh-chooey!”
But Andersen’s uneven syntax often creates issues. She fails at times to keep the beat steady, even when it would be easy to remove a word to accomplish this. For instance, removing the word “he” from the second line would do the trick here: “He learned chops and kicks and lots of cool tricks,/And with powerful strength, he used his head to break bricks.” Those reading the story aloud will stumble on the inconsistent rhythm.
It’s Ignacio G’s illustrations that provide the book’s greatest strength. By picturing Louie in sunglasses, giving a thumbs-up, and performing a song with obvious aplomb, he turns Louie into one cool dog. The artist makes the most of the narrative, as when he depicts a giant movie screen filled with the face of a scary character on one page – and popcorn flying on the next. Another standout illustration shows Louie dressed in a formal suit, playing the piano so animatedly that the keyboard seems to leap.
Polishing the rhymes would greatly improve this picture book, particularly as a read-aloud story. Nevertheless, the high-spirited text paired with the animated illustrations should appeal to young children, who will enjoy “Super-Special” Louie.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.