I came to love this book much more than I initially thought I would. My first reaction was along the lines of, “Oh, it’s just another cute animal story,” which it is. However, I think what makes this book more than just a cute story is its strong narrative style. Similar to the original (and my favorite) story, “101 Dalmatians,” this book describes life in Moscow entirely from a dog’s perspective, encouraging the reader to interpret human behaviour as a dog would see it. One of my favorite examples is how dogs refer to their owners as “their humans.” While cute, the dog’s-eye view is also realistic, portraying dogs as reasonable thinkers, which I think makes the story more interesting rather than an overdose of animal cuteness.
The story is very character-driven: JR (the Jack Russell) comes to realize that he, like his owner, has a problem letting other people/dogs come into his life. JR experiences very real and familiar emotions: longing for a more stable life, a little jealousy in wanting to keep his explorations with the strays a secret from the other embassy dogs, and the guilt associated with wanting/needing to do the right thing for his friends. Despite the fact that all of the primary characters are dogs, I think that readers will sympathize (maybe even empathize?) with JR as he becomes more self-aware.
The pacing is relatively relaxed, though it does pick up as the story takes a dramatic turn and JR takes initiative to save the day. What’s especially great about this book is its appeal to both young and older readers: the author takes a horrible reality as the evil against which they fight, yet presents it in a way that is (age) appropriate for readers of any age.
Overall, a great read for anyone Gr. 3+ (and adults of course!)