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Graeme Base (as told to him by his dog Molly)
Amulet/ $16.95/ 145p
TruckDogs are half-dog, half-vehicle and the dominant species of some otherwise Earth-like planet on an Australian-type continent. (Think: Mad Max merged with Thomas the Tank Engine.) Our canine-car heroes are the Mongrel Pack, not really a gang so much as a self-preservation unit of bored adolescents. They wind up saving the hometown that previously rejected them from a bad bunch of RottWheelers -- but the concept is obviously more important than the story here. The writing is full of puns and flatulence (both admired by its intended middle grades audience) and 16 well-executed (e-z-to license as collectible cards if sales merit) full color illustrated plates will appeal to boys. It's a clever idea, but it's the idea that winds up damaging the book, too. Although they can use their wheels and mirrors with some dexterity, the truckdogs have no arms or legs, let alone something as necessary to maintenance as opposable thumbs. There are other species on the planet (like TruckBugs and TruckSheep), but nothing that can perform human roles. Thus one is constantly wondering just how these creatures manufacture their petrol, grow their cabbages, make their baling wire, or adjust their own clutches. The human presence need not be pronounced, but some vague provision should be made. [The Fat Controller (Sir Topham Hatt to Americans), for example, bossed Thomas and his train posse.] That doesn't solve all the problems -- How can there be BMW, Fords (two of several brand names used) without a Henry Ford or a Carl Benz (or Gottlieb Daimler or even an Emil Jellinek with a ten-year-old daughter named "Mercedes")? -- but it might help for anyone over age eight.
--review originally appeared in DarkEcho # 36
Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights