Mooch the cat and Earl the dog are back! In The Mutts Winter Diaries, they and their human and animal buddies enjoy—well, tolerate—winter. (They do some of each.) Fans of the Mutts newspaper comics or the other book collections will recognize recurring characters like Guard Dog and the squirrels Bip and Bop. We also meet a couple of admirably patient bears who would be hibernating right now if they could just get a minute’s peace.
The Mutts Winter Diaries collects 170 pages of winter-themed Mutts comic strips. Mooch and Earl are their usual funny selves, and their friendship is cute and charming. Most of the jokes in this collection relate to cold, snow, and hibernation. There are running themes: Mooch tries to find two snowflakes that are the same, Earl debuts his doggie sweater to mixed reactions, and the two make several attempts to hibernate through the winter. As is usual with the Mutts comics, there is a lot of gentle humor along with the occasional more poignant strip about the plight of animals in our world.
The panels—both black and white strips and the colorful Sunday comics—are set against a background designed to look like lined notebook paper. Strips with one long panel, and the Sunday strips, are usually turned sideways. Each page holds only one comic strip, whether that’s three or more panels or just one, making this a very quick read.
Admittedly, some of the pages look a little spare with just a few panels on them. On the other hand, the comics are printed large enough to be bold and visually clear. The art features simple, stylized animals and people who are nonetheless distinct and expressive. The backgrounds are fittingly spare, shaded with both scribbled lines and simple dotted screentones. The Sunday strips are beautifully and richly colored.
The Mutts comics’ creator, Patrick McDonnell, is a great proponent of animal shelters and good pet care. A couple of strips in this collection allude to these topics—one, for instance, shows a man adopting a dog from a shelter, and the two spending a happy holiday together. The book ends with a few pages devoted to how wild animals (like the squirrels Bip and Bop) spend the winter in real life, and what can be done to help and support them. It also notes that, although the cat Mooch spends a lot of time outside, indoors is the safest place for pet cats.
Mutts has plenty of fans among adults as well as kids, and this book will be a fun one for them. Reluctant readers will enjoy its simplicity and the one-comic-per-page layout. It would also make a good recommendation for animal lovers, including sensitive readers who will enjoy a quiet comic populated mostly with kind, well-intentioned characters.
The Mutts Winter Diaries
by Patrick McDonnell
Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015