Stick Dog

Stick DogWhen I told my son I wasn’t a huge fan of Potterwookiee, he said that if I want books that look like they’re written by middle schoolers, I should totally read Stick Dog. So I did, and he was right. The cover looks like one of those school notebooks with the sewn binding and a place to write your name on the front. All of the pages are lined, with the text lined up as though it’s written within those lines. The drawings are all stick figures—the book promises “a really GOOD story with really BAD drawings.”

The narrator, who is writing the story of Stick Dog, frequently directly addresses the reader and occasionally goes off on tangents. The illustrations are amusing and likely to encourage kids to imitate them because they’re certainly not intimidating. The plot is simple—Stick Dog, who lives in a pipe under Highway 16, smells someone cooking hamburgers. He and his four dog friends scheme to snatch the hamburgers and eat them. And that’s pretty much it.

SPOILER ALERT: Things you might want to know before suggesting this to your kid

Not much at all, really. It’s a cute story.


Stick Dog, Karen (a dachshund), Poo-Poo (so named because he’s a poodle, not after…you know), Stripes (a Dalmatian), and Mutt (who’s a mutt) are all on this adventure together. All the dogs have their own odd quirks, but rather than ridiculing or teasing them, Stick Dog patiently listens to them and gently steers them toward more sensible plans. He celebrates their strengths even as he makes sure they aren’t brought down by their weaknesses. He seems to be the leader of the group, but he’s never pushy or bossy. I appreciate silly characters who aren’t looked down on or ridiculed.

Stray Dogs

Stick Dog has never had a human family that he remembers, which is why he doesn’t miss it. Some of the other dogs used to live with humans, and they remember parts of that fondly. It does mention that it’s been over 24 hours since the dogs last ate, which is why they’re so anxious to grab those hamburgers. But it’s not a sad story about homeless animals, nor are they adopted into human homes at the end. Stick Dog will happily go back to his pipe.

Kind Humans

Although the dogs come up with an elaborate plan to steal the hamburgers, in the end the humans willingly share their food because the dogs are so cute.

Slapstick Humor

Like most books of this genre, the humor is a bit slapsticky (spilling things, squirting ketchup) but this book is much gentler than many and is never cruel to the objects of jokes or pranks.

Veggies and Authority

Our narrator says he isn’t a fan of vegetables, but then says cauliflower isn’t so bad if you can forget that it looks like brains. Some lipservice is paid to not liking veggies, but in the end it’s not really anti-vegetable.

The narrator’s art teacher is not a fan of his really bad drawing, but the narrator actively doesn’t care. The narrator’s English teacher has some inflexible ideas about writing that the narrator takes care to break (they’re the kinds of writing rules that good writers learn to break eventually anyway). He asks the reader to just accept this story written the way he likes and illustrated the way he likes, even if his teachers would disapprove. It’s probably a liberating idea for some kids.


It’s a cute book and a quick read. My son liked it enough to buy the sequel. I appreciate that it’s silly without being “OMG my life sucks!” or “OMG everyone around me is so STUPID!” It’s a sweet and funny story. It’s also suitable for newly independent readers and for reluctant readers. I can imagine it inspiring kids to grab a notebook and write their own stories.


Stick Dog by Tom Watson
Published in 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books
First in a series, followed by Stick Dog Wants a Hot Dog and the upcoming Stick Dog Chases a Pizza
Read my son’s copy

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