Review of Dear Beast

Dear Beast
by Dori Hillestad Butler; illus. by Kevan Atteberry
Primary    Holiday    77 pp.    g
5/20    978-0-8234-4492-2    $15.99

Having two pets in two separate homes can spark a bit of territorialism, so when Andy announces he has a new dog at Dad’s house, Simon, the cat who lives at Andy’s mom’s, takes immediate action: he writes a formal letter dispensing with the dog’s services. The return correspondence, far less formal, introduces an eager, oblivious canine named Baxter, a perfect foil for Simon. Thus launches this epistolary early chapter book, with the letters sent back and forth via a goggle-eyed snail carrying a mailbag. Simon’s letters, written on personal letterhead, ooze pretention and are signed “sincerely,” while Baxter’s torn-notepaper missives are littered with spelling errors, “YAY!”s, and signoffs such as “Luv and Liver Treets.” Simon tries a variety of manipulative tactics to oust the newcomer, including debating, shaming, and enlisting the help of goldfish Bubbles and a neighborhood skunk named Stinky. Eventually Simon succeeds in getting rid of Baxter, but he immediately realizes his mistake and amps up his letter-writing efforts to get the dog back home. Beneath the humorous cat vs. dog banter, readers learn more about Andy’s life and family through the creatures’ doting observations. Full-color cartoony art on every page provides additional setting and characterization, while a “Doggy Dictionary” in the back addresses Baxter’s many spelling errors.

From the May/June 2020 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Julie Roach
Julie Roach

Julie Roach, chair of the 2020 Caldecott Committee, manages youth services at the Cambridge Public Library in Massachusetts. She also teaches children’s literature at Simmons University’s Graduate School of Library and Information Science and at Lesley University.

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.


Community matters. Stay up to date on breaking news, trends, reviews, and more.

Get access to reviews of books, ebooks, and more