A fun book based on an original idea with a nice twist at the end.
Newton the dog has just found out he has nine lives. He read it on a poster and it’s made him very excited. Since he has nine lives, he decides he can be MUCH more daring. He can do all his favourite things no matter how dangerous they are. He can poo wherever he likes. He can play with lions. And practise his best bark without worrying about disturbing the sleeping bears. He can even relax in the middle of a pool of hungry crocodiles. There is just one problem. He’s made a mistake. Luckily his friend, the cat, does have nine lives and is probably going to need everyone one of those lives to stop Newton coming to harm.
This is a fun book that considers how things might go wrong when you misunderstand something (in this case a hot dog van pulls up in front of a poster so the caption reads: ‘Hot Dogs Have 9 Lives’). It’s a great concept but young readers are likely to need an adult or older sibling to explain about the van and the poster (especially as this is repeated in a different way later in the book).
However, as long as this explanation is provided, young children are likely to enjoy Newton’s antics. I certainly loved watching Newton gambol into danger with cat rushing behind trying to warn him and always coming off worse as a result of the attempt to help. My favourite is probably when poor cat is bitten by scorpions with poisonous stings, sharp pincers and very angry faces. Indeed, one of those scorpions is pictured clinging to cat’s tail for the rest of the story. (I am, perhaps, biased but – as a cat lover – I liked the fact that cat is the sensible and wise one while Newton is rather dippy and gung-ho).
The story itself is well paced with a nice twist at the end. It’s rare for a picture book to be written in first person but this story is told from Newton’s viewpoint and it works remarkably well. In fact, I think children may enjoy the feeling that Newton is talking to them.
In another unusual choice, the font is all in capital letters. While I doubt this was the decision on the author/illustrator, Alice McKinley, I think this works less well as it may hinder some emerging readers who are used to a lower case font.
The pictures are simple, with a hint of spontaneity, and plenty of colour to appeal to children. There is also good variation in pace and movement as well as some wonderful expressions on the characters. For example, cat’s look of horror at Newton’s misunderstanding or fear as cat cowers in a bucket when Newton decides to play with a lion.
If you enjoyed this, you might like to check out The Pirates are Coming! by John Condon and Matt Hunt or Froggy Day by Heather Pindar and Barbara Bakos.
Date: March 2020
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Website: Alice McKinley