I’m still not able to write the blog I want to write (Inetbib 2013); life keeps getting in the way, one aspect of which was a fantastic writing workshop I attended in Lincoln City, Oregon, about which I also don’t yet feel capable of writing anything. I’m too blown away by the kindness and the competence I experienced there. Plus I’m trying to practice everything I learned there often enough so I don’t forget it.
However, while at the workshop and in Lincoln City (which deserves to be famous for things other than poor Richard Swanson’s being killed on Highway 101 there), I discovered two wonderful books by Susan J. Kroupa, the first two of her Doodlebugged Mysteries, books she recommends for middle-grade (I would guess ages 9-12) and anyone who likes dogs.
The protagonist, point-of-view character and star of the books is Doodle, a labradoodle (a dog with curly, dark hair and beautiful brown eyes, part labrador and part poodle) who has been trained to sniff out bedbugs. Doodle, favored with a wry intelligence and clear-headed view of human beings, manages to clear up mysteries, repair relationship problems, and solve most of the other problems of his human employers, despite the fact that said humans are woefully incapable of understanding his unambiguous commands. I haven’t met a fictional character in a long time that I enjoyed melding my mind with as much as Doodle. Susan J. Kroupa claims Doodle is inspired by Shadow, her independent labradoodle, but I think I recognized a few human sources of inspiration, at least every time Doodle commented “Just sayin’ …”
Anyway, Book One of what will hopefully be a long and prosperous series, is “Bed-Bugged” in which Doodle, while sniffing out bedbugs, also aids his employer’s 10-year-old daughter in flushing out a gang of art thieves (who were foolish enough to let the paintings become infested with bedbugs). As if that weren’t enough, Doodle also helps the daughter find her long-lost mother and accept a reality that doesn’t entirely match her dreams. Along the way Doodle comments on the inanities and insanities of human behavior.
Book Two more than exceeds the expectations you have after enjoying Book One. In Book One Susan J. Kroupa touches on serious topics of children’s coming to terms with less than perfect home lives, on problems of illegal immigrants, and on problems of single fathers trying to earn a living and do justice to their children’s needs. These problems continue in Book Two, “Out-Sniffed”, but Kroupa, without ever being heavy-handed, now adds problems of bullying, teen-aged drug use, a well-meaning but often helpless police force, and inept pet owners to the mix.
Fortunately, the ten-year-old daughter, with the help of Doodle, still the most intelligent and competent character in the book, manages to solve these problems and Doodle’s employer’s problems with stupid criminals while learning to accept her flawed but loving parents for the complex human beings that they are. “Out-Sniffed” is warmhearted and funny but never superficial. Doodle, of course, as he comments regularly, sees through every situation immediately, while the human beings do their best, fumble, and then get up and try again. Doodle occasionally indulges himself in some gentle sarcasm, but always lets slip at the end how much he cherishes his human companions.
So, I recommend this book highly to anyone who is aged 9-12, who knows someone aged 9-12, who likes dogs, or who might enjoy spending some time in the mind of a highly intelligent labradoodle who remains tolerant of human foibles.
These are both entertaining reads. Do yourself a favor and take the time for them.