cover image Emerson Barks

Emerson Barks

Liza Woodruff. Holt/Ottaviano, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-1-62779-167-0

“Life was great for Emerson,” writes Woodruff (If It’s Snowy and You Know it, Clap Your Paws!) of her pert terrier protagonist. Well, except for one thing: Emerson’s bark punches way, way above its weight. When that bark drives away a neighbor’s cat and gets his own owner, Eva, in trouble, Emerson doesn’t need to be sent to an actual doghouse to feel miserable. Thanks to Woodruff’s crisp, unfussy cartooning, most readers will feel a gut punch, too—they know how hard it is to practice impulse control, especially when the disappointment of a loved one is at stake. The ending, however, takes the easy way out and dilutes this moment of recognition and reflection. Emerson makes amends by finding the missing cat (who actually had other motives for running off), uses his bark to alert the neighborhood, and “things quickly returned to normal in the neighborhood.” But the rewards of restraint and self-discipline aren’t always so clear-cut and celebrated, and there isn’t any real sense that Emerson has come away from the experience a wiser (or quieter) dog. Ages 4–8. Agent: Lori Kilkelly, Rodeen Literary Management. (Aug.)