In Review: Dog Man

Dave Pilkey has let the Dog Man out and the world is a much more entertaining place. Woof! Woof! Woof! Woof!

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey

Published by Graphix, an imprint of Scholastic, August 30, 2016. Paper over board of 240 pages at $9.99. Intended for ages 7 and up, grades 2 and up. 

NOTE: I read an advanced copy, so anything may change by publication.

The cover: With backlighting making him stand out against the silhouette of the city he protects, Dog Man has his hands on his hips and smiles at the reader, letting him or her know all will be fine. This cover by Dav Pilkey is incredibly warm and joyful, with the childish image (and it is drawn by child, but more about that later) looking great. I love that he has stitches connecting his head to his body. Overall grade: A+ 

The premise: From the press release: “There’s a new breed of justice in town, and he’s ready to sniff out criminals — as soon as he stops chasing his own tail! Meet Dog Man, the crime-biting canine who is part dog, part man, and all hero! In this new graphic novel spin-off to the renowned Captain Underpants series, George and Harold have created a new hero who digs into deception, claws after crooks, and rolls over robbers. This heroic hound has a real nose for justice, but can he resist the call of the wild to answer the call of duty?” This is going to be somewhat similar to Captain Underpants? As a former middle school teacher for 19 years I was more than familiar with the Captain, and his outings made me laugh. If this is anything like those, this will be good. Overall grade: A

The characters: Having had much success with creating the adventures of Captain Underpants, George Beard and Harold Hutchins find copies of the first comic book character they created, Dog Man. After sitting around reading all of these old comics they decide to create new adventures of the canine cop, “…and thus, Dog Man was born anewish!” Officer Knight and Greg the dog are fatally wounded by Petey the cat, the book’s villain. In the hospital, the doctor “came in with some supa bad news” : “I’m sorry, Greg, but your body is dying. and your head is dying too, cop.” To which Knight replies, “Rats! I sure hate my dying head!” Pilkey has captured the voice of two fourth graders creating a comic superiorly, complete with rapid plot and spelling mistakes. Dog Man never speaks, though he does bark when angered or to alert others and lick those he loves. He’s got several action scenes as he goes after bad guys and he’s a terrific hero. The Chief of Police is similar to those in films: overworked, overstressed, and always yelling at his staff. Having Dog Man as a officer that shows his love by licking him only creates more anger, and humorous situations. This relationship is great, and will create laughter in children and adults. The villains that cause trouble are many, Robo-Chief, the Mayor, weeniers that come to life, and, his arch enemy, Petey the cat. All the villains are great, with Petey taking the cake with his many nefarious schemes and devices, though, being a sci-fi fan, it’s hard not to like Weenie Wars: The Franks Awaken and their killer hot dogs. Every character is absolute fun. Overall grade: A+ 

The settings: This book looks as though it was illustrated by fourth graders and I’ll speak more about this in The Art category, but the locations include the hospital, the police station, the city streets, and the city jail. Overall grade: A

The action: Terrific action sequences, often involving Dog Man fleeing from villains or chasing villains give the book fun moments. Being written by fourth graders, no one walks anywhere — everyone runs, and action isn’t big — it’s tremendous! Highlights include the Weenie Wars and anytime Petey does something. Overall grade: A+

The conclusion: Petey creates the final troubles for Dog Man and the city, and he’s bested, but it’s Dog Man and the Chief’s relationship that ends the book solidly. Overall grade: A

The art: I have loved Dav Pilkey’s visuals since first seeing them. This novel only increased my love. There isn’t one straight line in this book, but there shouldn’t be with fourth graders creating this quickly. Pages 22 and 23 show that Pilkey can create laughs with text-free illustrations and they’re making me giggle again as I look upon them writing this review. The character introduced on 189 is the visual high point of the book, rivaling the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man. Overall grade: A+

The colors: Jose Garibaldi gives this book the bright, lively colors that make every page a delight to look upon. A particular highlight is the use of color dots, used to emulate the four-color process of the first forty years of comics’ coloring. I love the big colors on this book. Overall grade: A+

The activity pages: This was an unexpected joy. There are several Flip-O-Rama pages, where the reader can create a sense of animation with the images by flipping pages back and forth. There are also several pages where George and Harold show the reader how to draw the characters that populate this book. I would have killed for books to have these included when I was in fourth grade. Overall grade: A+

The final line: Dav Pilkey has let the Dog Man out and the world is a much more entertaining place. Funny, charming, sweet, and dog-gone entertaining. This is the book that will be passed around on the playground for years to come. Highest possible recommendation. Overall grade: A+

To order this book from Scholastic go to

Patrick Hayes was a contributor to the Comic Buyer's Guide for several years with "It's Bound to Happen!" and he's reviewed comics for TrekWeb and TrekCore. He's taught 8th graders English for 20 years and has taught high school English for five years and counting. He reads everything as often as he can, when not grading papers or looking up Star Trek, Star Wars, or Indiana Jones items online.
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