Brooke Kerrigan’s endearing illustrations are the star of this picture book about a floppy-eared dog called Wellington and his antagonistic relationship with a sneaky cat named Honey.
Slave to his prodigious hound’s nose, Wellington can’t resist the allure of meatloaf baking in the oven. As his master sleeps, Wellington takes the liberty of knocking the meatloaf to the floor and gobbling it up. He attacks the garbage can next, feasting on a repulsive concoction of mouldly cheese and pickled trout. When the master wakes up, Honey takes the fall, thanks to the cleanly licked meatloaf pan Wellington has stashed in her litterbox. He feels bad for a moment, but then remembers he’s been the victim of Honey’s tricks countless times before.
There is a strong Munschian streak in author Carolyn Beck’s aural and alliterative effects, used here to emphasize Welly’s gluttonous rampage. It’s also there in the book’s grotesque climax, in which the dog literally drowns the house in the thrown-up contents of his overloaded stomach. (Beck rounds out her young readers’ vocabulary with verbs such as heaved, hurled, upchucked, barfed, and spewed). If that weren’t nauseating enough, Welly then eats the whole lot up again, his satisfied burp the final coup de grâce.
Beck is looking for cheap laughs with all the snoring, burping, and vomit-eating, but Wellington’s unsavoury actions are profoundly at odds with the tender charm of Kerrigan’s muted illustrations. The book’s moral of delayed but justified vengeance also seems like a strange message for young kids.
Beck clearly wants her book to be a romp, but she tries too hard. Any reader not turned off by the book’s ick factor may find it overly verbose given how little actually takes place, and Beck’s writing is too much of a stylistic hodgepodge to build much of a rhythm for reading aloud.