“Woof,” by Spencer Quinn. Scholastic Press. $16.99. (This book is for ages 8-12 and will be available in hardcover April 28.)
Eleven-year-old Birdie Gaux and shelter dog Bowser make the perfect pair in this Louisiana-based, slow-moving mystery accented with a balance of frustration and fascination.
The pair tantalize and teeter while being lovingly goofy one minute and outside-the-lines detecting the next. Throughout, Quinn delivers the lovable Bowser’s words in the first-person, err first dog, while the central plot unfolds of finding “Black Jack,” her guardian grammy’s stolen stuffed prize marlin that is rumored to have a treasure map hidden inside and has been hanging on the wall of her fish, bait and tour shop since 1945.
From the outset, when grammy takes Birdie to look for a shelter dog on her birthday to the action-packed final pages, the sleuthing Birdie and Bowser are inseparably in trouble and out of it in bayou country.
More than once, Bowser, a fun-loving and flamboyant mutt who cherishes his freedom after shelter days, pays huge dividends, saving Birdie from a kidnapper and again from the same individual later. In the process, Quinn coaxes the best out of the patchwork quilt of characters – young and old – carefully connecting the dots while not undermining the flow.
“Woof” speaks volumes for the human-animal bond no matter what the age while leaving the reader asking for more Birdie and Bowser in a forthcoming mystery. You get the feel these two have only started their enriching partnership of helping others.