A selection of Patrick McDonnell’s Mutts comic strips are collected here for the enjoyment of kids and adults alike.
The collection is divided into strips featuring various characters. The two main sections are the “diaries” of Mooch the cat and Earl the dog. There are additional short sections for cantankerous Sour Puss, sweet kitten Chickpea (and his brother), tough dog Guard Dog, grumpy Crabby, wacky squirrels Bip and Bop, and the philosophical Shtinky, a cat who just wants to save the world.
The stories told in the strips range from the sweet and sentimental, like Chickpea’s adoption story, to the wacky puns of Bip and Bop as they launch nuts at the heads of superheroes. Mooch goes through his days with a bright curiosity and plenty of time for loving the little pink sock, Earl enjoys the simple pleasures of life like belly rubs and a warm sweater.
McDonnell’s art style will be familiar to anyone who’s read his strips in the newspaper or seen his artwork in picture books or during summer reading programs. His characters all have distinctive markings and looks, pointed ears, patches of color, stripes, etc. and new readers will quickly pick up on their individual personalities. He’s a master of the thoughtful realization, where a character pauses to suddenly realize they’ve been overlooking something, like Bip and Bop’s looks of blank surprise when Earl suggests they store their nuts for the winter, instead of throwing them at passersby, or Sour Puss’ long pause when his Monday complaint is derailed by a squirrel’s casual “Today’s Tuesday.” Some of his figures are both sweet and sad, like the ever-energetic but lonely Guard Dog, kept on a constant chain, or the hopeful but worried Chickpea and Chickpea’s brother, hoping for a family.
The diary format of the layout seems forced. The strips are plastered against a lined notebook paper background, with some of them, primarily the colored Sunday strips, turned sideways. Most of the regular strips are split into an inverted pyramid, with two at the top and the third, slightly larger, at the bottom. There isn’t really anything diary-like about the stories, so the publishers seem to be reaching a little for a unifying theme for this collection. However, the collection doesn’t really need this; Mutts and comic strips in general are popular enough that I think they would stand on their own, with a better layout that doesn’t try too hard to fit the strips into an odd format. That being said, this is a fun collection with a great variety of strips. Fans of the Mutts comic strip or just fans of comics strips in general will be sure to grab this off the shelf.
The Mutts Diaries
by Patrick McDonnell
Andrews McMeel, 2014
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 years old