An Unexpectedly Expensive Dog – What Pete Ate by Maira Kalman. Book Review.

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Click here to buy What Pete Ate from A to Z

Pete is a yellow dog who can’t stop eating everything he comes across. The book is based on an actual pet and his naughty eating habit. After the introduction, the author goes through the alphabet listing things the dog has consumed. It begins with cousin Rocky’s accordion. “All of it.” The accompanying picture shows the dogs torso shaped like the bellows of the accordion.

Some letters have alliteration to reinforce the sound. For example under B: “He ate a bouncing ball that belonged to uncle Bennie’s dog Buster. Buster is no bargain. He barks all the time. But still… Bennie lived in a beautiful room that had a Bed, Book, Box, and a Bottle of water.”

The author speaks directly to the reader to humorous effect. “He did not eat the cake from Olga, or the creamy cupcake. NO! He ate my CAMERA!! I love to take pictures. Look.” Then the author shares two silly pictures with us.

The typeset is an unusual mix of capitals and lowercase letters, for example, DoReen and accoRDion. It also seems to be a mixture of fonts. It gives the feeling of old advertisements. A child would have to be an experienced reader to handle this. There is some interesting vocabulary, such as gusto, fez, Morocco, continent, kazoo, and some very odd names.

The pictures are unusual too. At times they are off scale with distorted perspectives. Pages might hold a single item such as a key or be filled with extra notations and characters. It has the feeling of a book from the 40s even though it was published in 2001.

Although it is an alphabet book, I think a post kindergarten child would enjoy this the most.

After you read this book, it might be fun to go around the house with your child picking out things Pete might eat and saying what letter it begins with.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

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