Pugs of the Frozen North (A Not-So-Impossible Tale) by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre
There is a certain pitch that elementary school children can achieve when squealing over something particularly adorable or desirable. I have no doubt that this book would elicit those joyful sounds, which honestly are not so terribly different from the excited yips of the title pugs.
From the winsome illustrations to the evocative language, this is sure to delight readers. Every two page spread is filled with pictures: bug-eyed pugs, dastardly cartoonish villains, silky yetis, overly primped sled-dogs or our heroes, Sika and Shen. Readers who are just transitioning up to longer chapter books will enjoy the break that an illustration gives. Everyone else will just be charmed. The vocabulary in Pugs of the Frozen North is fantastic too! Just enough words that will challenge readers without tipping it into over complexity. I would have loved to have readers collect all of the new-to-them words back when I was teaching. As a parent, I’m just excited about the exposure.
The basic story involves Shen and Sika heading off with an unlikely dog-sled team of sixty-six pugs on a race to the North Pole to see the Snowfather and have a special wish granted. Their competitors are a mix of cartoonishly eeeeevil villains and friendly rivals, all with exotic, fabulous teams of their own. The race itself is fraught with your usual peril (fake detours) and some unusual peril (wait until you meet the yetis!) And the end wraps up not quite like you might expect. All in all it was a joyful read that I could help wishing would be made into a major motion picture.
Age Recommendation: This is absolutely a book that I would recommend for young readers who are way ahead of grade level, so those Kindergarteners and first graders who need a bit of a challenge but want lots of fun in their books as well! I believe it would hold interest straight up through about fourth grade, but as an adult I also enjoyed the light entertainment, so who knows how old an audience it might capture.
Sex, Nudity, Dating – None.
Profanity – “idiot”, “scum”,
Death, Violence and Gore – Grandpa raised sled dogs but they got old and died. Grandpa will also die. There is blood on the snow as adventures fight to be the first to see the Snowfather. There are some racing mishaps, but all very cartoonish in nature and unconcerning. Two people in an illustration are fighting. A Kraken breaks through the ice and attempts to eat the pugs. It is bitten for its troubles. Yetis are hit by snowballs. There are some scary snowmen, but the pugs are not scared and soon send them off. Snowtrolls will eat anyone who falls into their clutches. Dogs are in danger of being eaten by trolls. They are saved.
Drugs, Alcohol and Smoking – None.
Frightening or Intense Things – None.