Dog Man Book Review

When I was a Children’s Librarian, my job was to know what the kids were reading. This allowed me to order titles that they wanted to read.  One of the titles that I quickly knew was popular was Dog Man by Dav Pilkey – the same guy who wrote the Captain Underpants series. After reading it, I can understand why kids and even adults can enjoy it.

Dog Man by George and Harold (uh, I mean Dav Pilkey) is about the titular character – part dog, part human – and his adventures in fighting crime as a canine cop, especially those committed by his nemesis Petey the cat. It’s the first in a series, and it details his origin story and three other tales of justice.

As a kid, my sister and I loved reading Captain Underpants because of how silly the series were. I mean, it’s a superhero whose schtick is that he’s only wearing underwear. No one can take that seriously, and yet, he’s able to fight crime and put the villains like talking toilets and evil lunch ladies in jail.

I get the same vibe from Dog Man. As mentioned earlier, the main character is a half dog, half man who fights criminals as a police officer. Also, it can get very silly. For example in one story, Petey discovers that the reason that Dog Man is so smart is because he reads a lot. As a result, he invents a machine that eliminates all text from every book in order to make everybody stupid. This is the kind of silly stuff that a kid with an active imagination can come up with.

The book consists of 4 chapters, and each of them contains separate stories. The first one details Dog Man’s origin, which involves Petey the cat. The other tales contain other adventures that the titular character gets into. They are all fun. My favorite is Petey the cat using a ray gun to make inanimate objects come to life. There’s a great running gag of the hot dog wieners (who came to life because of Petey) trying to cause trouble in the town, but no one is taking them seriously because of their size.

Moreover, its graphics look like they were drawn by a kid with an active and sometimes gross imagination. The boxes are not made with complete straight lines, and some of the letters are retraced over to make sure that they are legible. The latter results in some of the letters looking darker than others. The characters are also illustrated with little dimension. Do you expect kids to be like Jerry Pinkney when they first start drawing?

Now, let’s get to the characters. One will not find a whole lot of substance with them, but they are very entertaining. Dog Man is a loyal half man half dog despite the shenanigans he gets into. He’s the typical hero in a comic book. There’s also Petey, who’s basically the evil scientist in cat form. He acts like the usual super villain. Another main character is the police chief, who gets annoyed whenever Dog Man ruins his stuff like his new couch. However, the former realizes that he needs the latter during the course of the book. I heard the police chief with Mr. Goldenfold’s voice from Rick and Morty, which made the read all the more entertaining. Yes, the characters are tropes that one can find in superhero comics, yet that’s the point because it’s written by first graders. Kids at that age are becoming familiar with those cliches, so they won’t most likely know how to subvert them.

Another element that makes Dog Man worthwhile is the flip-o-ramas that appear throughout. These were so much fun to do while reading it, and they don’t overstay their welcome. After the first one, I was secretly looking forward to the next flip-o-rama. I could do those for an hour if I wanted to, but alas I had to be an adult. It made me feel like I was 7-8 years old again much like the rest of the book did.

If there are complaints with the graphic novel, they are usually about the misspellings and the filth in it. I wasn’t bothered by those aspects. I talked about how the book looks like it was written by an actual kid, and that usually involves words that are incorrectly spelled. A kid’s spelling is not going to be perfect all the time. Heck, I know plenty of adults that need spell check. It’s a relatable element that the novel displays. As for the filth, there are scenes that involve poop and pee on the couch. Sure, not everyone will like the toilet humor that book sometimes gets into, but Dog Man is written by the same person who created a superhero who fights villains like talking toilets. Even Pilkey makes fun of these kinds of people with a report “written” by Harold and George’s 1st grade teacher expressing disappointment at their work and their supposed inability to follow the rules. Sometimes, one has to know what they are getting into when they read certain books. 

In conclusion, Dog Man by Dav Pilkey is a great graphic novel for both kids and adults. The stories and the graphics were highly enjoyable and believable as written by children. It contains tropes familiar to comic book fans, but the framing makes it understandable. I would recommend it to kids ages 7 and up, to adults who don’t mind a good juvenile book every now and then, and to anyone who likes cruder humor. It was a quick read, so I’m going to devour the rest of the Dog Man series soon!

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Published by emilymalek

I work at a public library southeast Michigan, and I facilitate two book clubs there. I also hold a Bachelor's degree in History and Theatre from Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, MI; a Master's degree in Library and Information Science from Wayne State University in Detroit, MI; and a Graduate Certificate in Archival Administration also from Wayne. In my downtime, I love hanging out with friends, play trivia and crossword puzzles, listening to music (like classic rock and K-pop), and watching shows like "Monty Python's Flying Circus"!

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