Our story opens by introducing us to an adorable little brown dog named Baxter, the town he lives in, and a not so cleverly-named social media service called Twoofer that only dogs know about and use. All the dogs in town have a device on their collars that allows them to “Twoof” one another, which particularly comes in handy one afternoon when Baxter discovers his friend Lucy didn’t meet up with the rest of his pals at the Pumpkin Parade. Baxter spots Lucy’s owner, Luke, crying because his balloon had come loose from his grasp and flown away. However, Baxter makes the incorrect assumption that Luke is crying because Lucy is missing, and what ensues are misunderstanding-fueled shenanigans akin to something out of Three’s Company. Thankfully for Baxter, he’s able to use Twoofer to gather clues and information to track down Lucy, who (conveniently for the plot) forgot to turn on her Twoofer device that day.
When I first saw the title Baxter the Tweeting Dog, I figured the book would be about a puppy that learned how to talk to birds or something along those lines. It never dawned on me that the book would use Twitter as an integral component of its plot and humor. But, lo and behold, that’s exactly what it does and I really have to question author Doreen Marts’s thinking. How many beginning readers use Twitter, or even know what Twitter is? Though I may use Twitter on a daily basis, my kindergarten-age son doesn’t make use of any social media tools yet, as I’m sure is the case for most beginning readers. Incorporating something like Twitter into a book is actually a cute idea in and of itself, but when considering the target demographic, it misses the mark.
That aside, Baxter the Tweeting Dog has enough going for it to make it worthy of readers’ attention. The presentation is likeable and downright friendly. The dogs and their world are drawn in a simple, delightful, colorful style that brings to mind cartoons such Dexter’s Laboratory and The Powerpuff Girls. In fact, in one scene there is even an obvious homage to Dexter and his sister Dee-Dee. While the storyline is not going to win any awards for originality or cleverness, it is harmless and fun, providing Baxter with a reason to cross paths with a number of lively characters. Everyone is smiling and happy in the book, which makes it an inviting place to escape to.
Baxter the Tweeting Dog would have been a stronger book if the Twitter element had been left out altogether. But given that Twitter is woven into the plot, it is very disappointing that the dogs’ Twoofs exist only in the book. That is, it would be fun to to see what @baxterpuppy, @crazeeeLucy, or @SirTullamore Twoof about, but I checked every single Twoofer handle and sadly there seems to be no real-world integration on Twitter or elsewhere, which is a missed marketing opportunity to be sure. Still, considering the charismatic artwork as well as the lighthearted story, Baxter the Tweeting Dog is a puppy kids will want to bring home with them, even if the entire Twitter element sails over their heads. Let’s hope Doreen Marts lets Baxter roam free from social media should he make a return, though I wouldn’t be surprised if soon enough he discovered Facebook, Pinterest, and Tumblr.
Baxter the Tweeting Dog
by Doreen Marts
Blue Apple Books, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: 6+