Feiwel & Friends. Sept. 2023. 352p. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781250811608.
Gr 4-6–Welcome to Dogtown, a shelter for regular dogs—and robot dogs (don’t ask, just go with it). The shelter’s top dog is Chance, a congenial and introspective pooch, who like all the residents, longs to reunite with her family. But as Chance understands, “Hope is a painful business.” That anguish, along with her resentment towards robot dogs (they often get adopted before real dogs) fades as Chance spends time with a robot dog she nicknames Metal Head. Animosity gradually evolves into understanding, then friendship as Chance introduces Metal Head to Mouse, a real mouse who lives in the shelter and shares Chance’s kibble. The action shifts to adventure when Chance and Mouse escape Dogtown to accompany Metal Head on his quest to rejoin his family. Super short chapters, perhaps suggesting a dog’s alleged limited attention span, keep the novel’s pace moving briskly toward a climax sure to please animal lovers despite a few sad moments along the way. Chance captivates with insights that are hilarious and wise beyond her age in dog years. She counsels Mouse, “Your heart is a muscle…It grows stronger the more you use it.” Thoughtful back matter suggests how children can help shelter dogs. West’s grayscale art perfectly captures canine emotion and unbridled energy.
VERDICT When Applegate and Choldenko collaborate, readers win.

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