In this intermediate graphic novel, two goofy dogs go on a silly adventure, falling into fairy tales, getting chased by bees, and having all sorts of adventures along the way.
Tatertoes, a big white dog with orange ears and protruding front teeth, lives with his friend Mr. Schnozzer, a fluffy and mostly responsible terrier with a prominent nose. Tatertoes is trying to entertain himself on a rainy day when Mr. Schnozzer suggests Tatertoes might like to visit the mother he doesn’t remember at the Jingleberry Puppy Farm in the town of Buzzard’s Breath and the two set off.
Along the way they share multiple puns, misunderstandings, fall into quicksand, and nearly get eaten by the Big Bad Wolf. Schnozzer does his best to be patient with Tatertoes, but it’s hard when he packs a yo-yo instead of food, hits a “candy bag” (wasp nest) with a stick, and finds a fluffy “kitty cat” (bear cub). However, they manage to make it to their destination in the end and all ends well.
While the advanced review copy I received was mostly in black and white, there were sample pages of the finished copy in color. The art style has a classic newspaper comic feel with typical cartoon faces – big eyes and tiny pupils, exaggerated features, and a simple palette of colors. There isn’t a lot of background or scenery, mostly the forest the two are traveling through, and the emphasis is on the dogs’ deadpan faces as Tatertoes cluelessly falls into problem after problem, with Schnozzer trying to fix things. Some of the panels are set against backgrounds, but the bulk follow the traditional pattern of simple white borders around each panel with the dialogue mainly consisting of jokes and exclamations while the action moves through the artwork.
This is Stromoski’s first graphic novel and he is primarily a comic strip cartoonist, so it’s no surprise that this shows a lot of the traditional comic strip humor – some of which I found uncomfortable and which makes me question including it in a library collection. Tatertoes has, as previously mentioned, prominent buck teeth and also drops in and out of specific speech patterns and quirky made-up words “I don’t have a remember of my mother” or “I thinks we need to rescue them before they get cooked.” It constantly made me think of outdated humor that specifically pokes fun at people with mental disabilities or specific ethnic groups. On the other hand, they’re dogs, not people. Tatertoes sometimes turns the table on the supposedly more intelligent Schnozzer, like pulling out a pair of compasses instead of a directional compass or telling Schnozzer “You need to work on your articulation” when he hears “no spiders” as “nose spiders”.
This new series is heavily blurbed by popular creators like Patrick McDonnell and Terri Libenson and ultimately librarians will have to decide if they find the humor stereotyped and negative, or if it really is just a pair of dogs being silly and a fun new graphic novel series that will appeal to fans of similar humor. If you decide to pass on this, alternatives would include Pea, Bee, and Jay, Waffles and Pancake, or The Inflatables. However, this will certainly appeal to fans of Jim Benton and similar goofy series like Gustav & Henri, so if you have a lot of requests for super silly comics this might be a good fit for your collection.
Schnozzer & Tatertoes Take a Hike! Vol. 1
By Rick Stromoski
Union Square Kids, 2023
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9)