And maybe, just maybe, a mystery might pop up.

I’ve grown to be a rather big fan of Epic! Originals. The most recent I happened to pick up is Brandi Dougherty’s Bark Park, illustrated by Paige Pooler. I’ll admit, with my absolute adoration for all things Epic puts out, Bark Park is one of my least favorites so far. That said, I think this is a series that a great many kids are going to just adore.

Maggie bicycled her legs one more time and then jumped up and ran in wide circles at top speed.

The story follows Scout, a mystery-loving pup, and all of her dog friends at the park. Each chapter exists in what I like to refer to as episodic-esque stories. So, for every chapter you read it’s a brief episode in the lives of these dogs at the park. The “mystery” of the story begins and ends all within the same chapter.

I’m actually rather fond of episode-like stories and I think they’re done well here. The first one, The Popped Ball, is pretty straightforward and predictable. But it’s fun, with everything getting tied up right before chapter two. Each dog has a distinct personality, ones that many dog owners will be able to recognize. To top it all off, there’s even a dog who is dealing with a newborn baby at home and is not too happy about it. I thought this was a fun touch.

“A cone of shame! He’s wearing a cone of shame!”

The Cone of Shame episodic chapter was hilariously sad. I’ve definitely been there with pets of my own who just hated wearing the cone and would do anything they could to get rid of it. I remember coming home to find the cone chewed to bits and my dog happily panting as though proud to have rid himself of the monstrous and embarrassing device. I remember my own anxiety over him continually licking his injury.

Those memories made it really easy to relate in a small way to what was going on in this second chapter. It also made it massively frustrating to watch as all the dogs went out of their way to help get rid of the cone. What I’m grateful for is that this chapter does a great job of impressing upon readers the truth that the cone is there to help. And I think it’s brilliant that kids have an opportunity to learn that removing a cone, even if the dog looks sad, is not a good idea.

“My bone is gone! I buried it right here yesterday. But now it’s missing!”

I’ll be honest, The Missing Bone kind of ties with The Popped Ball for my least favorite of the stories in this book. The thing is, I appreciated the second story the most because it imparted a lesson. Whereas the other two were kind of just mild dog-related mysteries. But, I imagine that children will find great fun in reading about the ball that got popped or the bone that went missing. And I’ll admit that, for this one, the commentary regarding the screaming infant is definitely something new siblings can relate to.

And that’s really nice for kids to have.

All in all, the stories in this book were cute. There was certainly a relatability factor to the stories, which is exciting considering it’s primarily about dogs. I won’t say that I love any of the characters, nor do I feel that we learn more about them other than their distinguishing personality traits. But, I did connect to Maggie, if only because she reminds me very much so of my hyperactive Border Collie.

The artwork is beautiful, too, and I can definitely picture a lot of young and middle grade readers really enjoying getting a chance to read through this book.

🦊🦊🦊

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