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Review of King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats and King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code

King & Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats
by Dori Hillestad Butler; illus. by Nancy Meyers
Primary    Peachtree    48 pp.
3/17    978-1-56145-877-6    $14.95

King & Kayla and the Case of the Secret Code
by Dori Hillestad Butler; illus. by Nancy Meyers
Primary    Peachtree    48 pp.
3/17    978-1-56145-878-3    $14.95

King, an exuberant dog, introduces himself in the initial two entries of a new early-chapter-book series: “Hello! My name is King. I’m a dog. This is Kayla. She is my human.” Although King narrates each story, Kayla cannot understand his words, but his body language, shown in lighthearted digitally colored illustrations drawn in pencil, makes his likes and dislikes clear. And he likes many things. In Dog Treats, he tells readers: “I LOVE peanut butter treats. They’re my favorite food!” But in Secret Code King reveals that his doggy enthusiasm is fickle and situational: “I LOVE cheese. It’s my favorite food!” and “I LOVE oatmeal. It’s my favorite food!” This repetition both within and between books helps boost confidence in beginning readers, as do the generous, plot-reinforcing illustrations, which depict Kayla with brown skin. Each story is a mystery; the first concerns the theft of some dog biscuits, and the second concerns a substitution cipher. But the process of solving is the same in both books: Kayla straightforwardly lists what she knows and then what she needs to know, creating a pattern well worth emulating. Each book allows plenty of room for predictions and provides a glimpse into the great payoff reading can deliver once the early fascination with decoding wears off.

From the May/June 2017 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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About Betty Carter

Betty Carter, an independent consultant, is professor emerita of children’s and young adult literature at Texas Woman’s University.

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