Buddy and Earl Go to School

In Buddy and Earl's fourth outing, Maureen Fergus and Carey Sookocheff (Buddy and Earl and the Great Big Baby) send the hilarious dog and hedgehog duo to school, where their friendship goes to the head of the class.

"With the right education, I can become anything," says imaginative hedgehog Earl when Meredith, the pair's human girl, tells them they're going to school. He hopes to learn dentistry, while his earnestly doofy canine friend Buddy's career aspirations include hot dog vendor and fire hydrant--until he remembers what dogs do to fire hydrants, that is. In the make-believe classroom, Earl's excitement quickly shifts to boredom, until Meredith steps out and puts him in charge. When newly minted Professor Earl introduces a curriculum that emphasizes "Sniffing Things," "Tail Chasing" and "Scratching Itches," Buddy unsurprisingly earns high marks, playing innocently into Earl's ultimate goal of honoring his best friend.

Despite Earl's flair for drama, the two besties remain refreshingly conflict-free in this gentle celebration of friendship and imagination. Sookocheff's muted palette of gray, brown and buttery yellow keeps the tone soft and dreamy as Earl's fantasy slowly takes over and Meredith's dolls go from objects to an audience cheering for Buddy. Parents will appreciate the implication that school brings positive experiences; young readers will crack up at Fergus's silly humor, such as the pals eating a "nutritious breakfast" of Dad's slippers, which Buddy admits do not taste as nice as Dad's "fancy shoes." This series continues to earn straight A's. --Jaclyn Fulwood, youth services manager at Main Branch, Dayton Metro Library

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