Written by Caralyn Buehner
Illustrated by Mark Buehner
(Harper Collins Publishers, 2004)
This is the story of a much-ridiculed short and squatty Dachshund named Dex. The ringleader in making fun of Dex is Cleevis, a large tomcat who never tires of entertaining his peers with jokes that come at the tiny dog's expense. Poor Dex dreams of becoming a superhero. But he does more than dream; he trains. Dex does extra laps on the rug before finally lying down. He increases his leaping and running exercises. Yes, through determination, Dex makes the transformation. Ultimately, he proves his superhero status to Cleevis in a compelling way.
I was never much for superhero comics, but the genre generally appeals to boys. Superdog: The Heart of a Hero, by the husband-wife team of Mark and Caralyn Buehner, infuses comic book elements into the picture book format. In fact, the text boxes for the comic-styled cells are the most fun to read, especially using the deeper, dramatic voice of a radio announcer (e.g., "It was clearly a desperate situation....").
The illustrations are playful, my favorite being the series of cells showing Dex flexing and admiring his suddenly sinewy frame. As noted on the book jacket, Mark Buehner adds to the viewing pleasure by sneaking in images of rabbits, cats and T-Rex dinosaurs in many of the illustrations. (Look in windows, in the folds of Superdog's cape, in the trees and clouds. (I also found an uncredited whale, a witch and even a SuperDex representation playfully added to the background. Intentional? Could my eyes be playing tricks on me?) The bonus caricatures will encourage repeated viewings.
While Superman, Spiderman and Aquaman have devoted followings, Superdog is a treat worth yipping about.