- Mason Dixon: Pet Disasters
Chronicler of the middle grades Claudia Mills returns here with the first volume in a new series starring nine-year-old Mason Dixon. Mason is essentially a reverse Walter Mitty, a quiet, orderly guy who’d prefer to live under the radar but is repeatedly dropped into drama by his ebullient parents and impulsive best friend, [End Page 95] Brody. In this outing, Mason has pets thrust upon him repeatedly, even though he doesn’t want them; after the goldfish dies, the hamster runs away, and the cat has to be returned, Mason gets a dog—or really, the wildly excited Brody gets a dog, which lives, to Mason’s annoyed acquiescence, at Mason’s house. The book makes Mason keenly sympathetic as the kid resignedly towed along in the wake of others, not because he’s afraid but because he doesn’t want to make a fuss or hurt anybody’s feelings; readers will particularly and ruefully relate to the way his life keeps careening out of his control, no matter how hard he tries to rein it in. It’s not surprising that he eventually bonds with Dog, the three-legged dog, but the situation is worked out with fairness to both Mason and Brody. There’s plenty of age-appropriate wit to add a little comic distance to the situation, keeping things from getting too angsty. Scratchy monochromatic line illustrations, shaded with scrawled hatchings, are a nice blend of rustic and cartoonish, adding another quiet touch of humor. Even kids with wider comfort zones will relate to Mason’s trials, and they’ll look forward to his future outings.