I love English. I’ve always had a forte for writing and reading, and I’ve been telling my own stories since the second grade. Back then all I did was draw superhero comics fueled by Captain Underpants books, but albeit it did make me iconic in the classroom, as I matured so did my writing. I went from writing superhero comics to writing real picture-less stories. Sci-fi, horror, fantasy, realistic fiction, the whole nine yards. But during my middle school years, I met a great teacher whose name was Mr. Principe. Also known as Mr. P, P Diddy, “the Fresh Prince of ELA”, and his mustachioed alter ego “Prince”. He (Mr. P) called what he taught not English, but ELA (English language arts), but he taught it well. He gave me counsel and tips of how to make my writing more exciting (hey that rhymed), and his classroom doubled as a welcome reading environment. He had not one but three shelves of books crammed with novels including The Ear, The Eye, and the Arm, Ender’s Game, Holes, HIVE, and the first two Mysterious Benedict Society books. A couple of months ago, after finishing Max Cassidy: Escape from Shadow Island as a read-aloud story, he introduced us to this novel. I’ll never forget it.
Smells Like Dog, written by the author of Coffeehouse Angel and To Catch A Mermaid, revolves around the wild misadventure-filled romp that is the life of Homer Winslow Pudding. Yes, his last name really is Pudding. Homer is a countryside boy who lives on a goat farm in Milkydale with his parents and his sister Gwen, who is an aspiring taxidermist. Homer’s uncle Drake was eaten alive by a carnivorous mutant tortoise, and he aspires to be a treasure hunter like his uncle was, much against his father’s preferences. A man named Mr. Twaddle shows up at Homer’s door with his condolences and a single keepsake to inherit–a basset hound named Dog who has a very special coin on his collar. The catch about Dog is that he has no sense of smell, but when Homer leaves for the city to search for Rumpold Smeller’s treasure, he discovers his buddy’s true powers as he searches for the answers with a single clue: L.O.S.T. However, the treasure will not be an easy sweep, because every Peter Pan has his Captain Hook. In this case, Hook would be Madame la Director, who wants the treasure all for herself. Along the way Homer meets three new friends: Laura Lee (a pink-haired tomato soup girl), Ajitabh the Cloud Man (you heard me), and Zelda. No, not Zelda from Legend of Zelda (I wish), but the tall deep-voiced Zelda. With a band of unlikely companions, could Homer defeat Madame once and for all to save the treasure? Or will her diabolical plans come to fruition?
“A fantastic tale in every good sense of the word…both exhilarating and soulful.” – Rebecca Stead, Newbery Medal-winning author of When You Reach Me
“Full of fantastic characters…delightful humor, and wonderful adventures, this book is a treasure.” – Sarah Beth Durst, author of SFWA Andre Norton Award finalists Into the Wild and Ice
PRESENTATION: Smells Like Dog seemed like it was a modern-day Huckleberry Finn at first, but it turned into a fast-paced and mystery-filled adventure that had me second guessing along the way. Selfors molds her characters with astounding detail, well tracing Homer’s relationships with his friends in such a way that you’ll be mowing through numerous chapters at a time. (10/10)
STORY: A very unorthodox approach to the middle-grade adventure genre, both for better and for worse. The upside is, it’s a unique story with a staggering amount of detail that supports over 300 pages of story telling. The downside is, Selfors creates her story with so much detail that I very often found myself lost within the story’s events. I’m trying to recall a minor event as I type. Maybe that one time at the elevator where–er, maybe when Homer met Laura and–uh, see what I mean? Also, some of the story plot lines are just unrealistic. I’m pretty sure those cloudcopters should’ve been a red flag. (8/10)
FUN: Smells Like Dog is as fun to read as it is to picture, and with over 300 pages of adventure you can create a pretty good painting around that. Visiting the lair, the Realm of Reptiles, and other places is a blast with Selfor’s creative detail. (10/10)
STYLE: Aside from major detail and great storytelling, Homer’s adventure isn’t really that “stylish”. I’m not imagining like “James Bond walks away as an explosion occurs behind him” stylish. I’m imagining like “the story has some fluidity to it” stylish. However, it’s so heavily written that when I tried to swim in its seas of fluidity, I drowned. (9/10)
QUANTITY/QUALITY: Smells Like Dog is nearly 400 pages long. Read my statements above and do the math. Alright, I’ll make an algebraic equation: say s = story, d = detail, f = fluidity, and q = quality. If sd – f + q = this book, solve for the variables. (10/10)
FINAL VERDICT: Smells Like Dog is one of the most innovative adventure novels you’ll ever read, a whimsical romp of an action-packed mystery that does heavy lifting with its detail for better and for worse. A rewarding read only for the most skilled readers, or those who enjoy stories about dogs and/or adventures. (9/10)
FINAL SCORE: Suzanne Selfors’ Smells Like Dog receives a 56/60, which is a 93% score that gives the book the final grade of an A.
Well, how about that for a Sammwak double feature? Anyway, make sure to tune in next Friday for more awesomeness courtesy of Sammwak! I say Friday because I’ll be leaving again this weekend to Illinois, and I don’t have anything scheduled for next Monday. If it’ll be another double feature, I don’t know. But it’s safe to say you’ll dig what we’re cooking up next!
Stay classy America,
P.S. Want to check out some more Suzanne Selfors books?
- Smells Like Treasure – When the moment Homer has been waiting for–finally becoming a true adventurer–arrives, he is set back by an unexpected foe who starts a battle where the one who solves the clues and finds the loot first will win the prize of becoming an adventurer.
- Smells Like Pirates – In what could be the finale for the three-part adventure of Homer and Dog, Homer finds himself closer than ever to Rumpold Smeller’s treasure. But when a bitter enemy forms a villainous organization called FOUND, the duo is caught at a gripping decision: either join the dark side to find the prize, or ditch their lifelong quest to find the treasure.
- To Catch A Mermaid – Since his mother died in a tornado, Boom Broom doesn’t think his life could suck any more. When he finds a baby mermaid that grants infinite wishes, his sister Mertyle is hit by the curse of the merfolk, and Boom and his friend Winger must return the baby mermaid to her mother before it’s too late to break the curse.
- Fortune’s Magic Farm – When Isabelle discovers she is the heir to Fortune’s Farm, a place where magic remnants grow, she finds an opportunity to break away from her mundane life working at an umbrella factory. Isabelle’s new home full of curative cherry trees and flying fronds looks like paradise, she must harvest the powers of the farm to bring back the sun and stop the despicable Mr. Supreme, owner of the umbrella factory.
Video of the Week: Adande Thorne, aka Swoozie, is probably one of the greatest vloggers on YouTube. Ever since February 2006 he’s been uploading fragments of his life story, and since last year he began using animations to tell his stories. This way was much better for his channel and scraped together millions of hits. This is probably Swoozie’s first video ever that doesn’t tell some part of his life story. Here’s the setup: Swoozie plays the driver of a girl named Alyvia, and as he drives her to an undisclosed location he is suddenly confronted in the middle of the road by a duo of armed diamond thieves. You’ll never believe the ending.
One of the diamond thieves (the guy in the front seat) was Cameron Magruder (better known as Scooter Magruder), who is also a great vlogger. In case you don’t know him, he was a YouTube Next Vlogger who’s been featured on The Today Show, the Orlando Sentinel, the Huffington Post, and even NBA TV! Here are a couple of videos to get yourself recognized with him: