Bookworm: ‘Ruff’ spots and a bare bear

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Wonder of Lost Causes”

  • By Nick Trout
  • c. 2019, Wm. Morrow
  • $16.99, $21 Canada; 464 pages

Pitbull or Poodle? Doberman, Dalmation, or Dachshund? Small dog or big dog, long-haired or no hair, you’re a good dog parent who knows how to pick the right dog for you. It’s a little bit science, a little bit heart and, as in the new book “The Wonder of Lost Causes” by Nick Trout, it’s as if the dog picked you, too.

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Dr. Kate Blunt wasn’t sure what stopped her from putting the dog down. Surely, it would have been a mercy.

The fact was that she didn’t, though, giving the animal a 14-day reprieve. Space was tight at the shelter Kate ran, and two weeks was all any dog got before its time was up.

“The Wonder of Lost Causes” by Nick Trout

But this dog, the one she named Lucky, was in pretty bad shape, skinny, with scars on his muzzle. A mutt with an impossible-to-decipher lineage, he was also scared but the second he saw Kate’s son, Jasper, the dog came alive.

Eleven-year-old Jasper had been begging for a dog his whole life but his mom said he had to make do by helping out at the shelter. Mostly, he just took care of odd jobs here and there; not much, because his cystic fibrosis made it hard to breathe sometimes. Still, he’d do almost anything to spend time with dogs.

This dog, though. Jasper knew nobody would believe him, but the connection he had with the animal was immediate and weird. It was like the dog was putting words in Jasper’s head, like when the dog said that its name was Whistler. Jasper couldn’t decide if he controlled it, or if Whistler did but either way, he didn’t see it as a bad thing.

What was bad was that the dog was microchipped.

Whistler belonged somewhere else, to some program in Texas that trained service dogs and there was a little girl that desperately needed him. As Jasper began to understand the situation, Kate saw the likely ending and she knew she’d fight for her son in any arena.

Keeping this dog, though – she also knew that could be a losing battle …

At first sniff, “The Wonder of Lost Causes” seems pretty new-agey and maybe, with the mind-reading bit, a hair on the odd side. Yes, it’s fun to Doctor-Doolittle with a dog – what dog owner doesn’t? – but that uncanny communication becomes oversized here, in narrative that’s too long and that contains at least one pointless side plot.

And yet, that won’t matter one bit to fans of dog stories. Nope, this book is irresistible because it’s about a dog and about love – two things that are rather the same. Indeed, author Nick Trout tells a tail here about a boy and his pup, and you could easily say that it’s just a little magic.

If you’re not a dog lover, move along. You’ll hate the ruff spots in this book and it’s not for you anyhow. For puppy parents with patience, though, “The Wonder of Lost Causes” could be the pick of the litter.


  • By Jenn Harney
  • c. 2019, Disney Hyperion
  • $12.99, $13.99 Canada; 40 pages

I see London, I see France … you just flashed your undies by accident and someone noticed. Oops, you didn’t mean to do that. How embarrassing. How silly. As in the new book “Underwear!” by Jenn Harney, how do you like to wear your underwear?

More:Bookworm: From troubling to trouble free

The little bear just got out of the bathtub. That made him a “bare bear.”

As he started to walk out of the bathroom, his mother reminded him that he couldn’t take one more step without putting on his tighty whities.

“Underwear!” by Jenn Harney

But the little bear didn’t really want to wear underwear. He started to act silly, asking his mother where he’d put his undies. He really didn’t lose them; he just wanted to tease her. Mama wasn’t happy.

But uh-oh. The underwear was torn. He couldn’t wear ripped undies, could he? 

No worries. Mama had a spare pair for a silly bear who pretended that he didn’t know how to wear underwear. On his head?  On the floor?  On his bathtub toy?  Or maybe like a cape or a suit or a place to play?  He wore his undies on his head, like a hat. He knotted them and pulled at them and tugged and tried to look glamorous because “underwear makes awesome hair.”

A little bear can dive when wearing undies. He can be “Superbear” or “Aquabear!” When he was in his underwear, he could hide and run but he had to be careful. He needed to pay attention to what was around him. He had to remember that “Big Bear” might be in the room next door and Big Bear had absolutely no time for nonsense. Big Bear wouldn’t let the little bear get away with silliness.

Big Bear was not putting up with a bare little bear and no underwear…

Let’s face it: “Underwear!” is probably not going to win a Nobel Prize. It’s likely not going to be up for any literary award at all, in fact. But there’s a pretty good chance that author Jenn Harney’s book will become your toddler’s favorite all-around story, and that should be all the excuses you need to have it around.

Indeed, “Underwear!” is a no-brainer for small kids who think that BVDs are the height of sophisticated comedy. They’ll love the little rhyme that makes up the story and you’ll love that it’s clever, too. For kids that age, the illustrations will be a big draw, as well: they’re colorful and filled with hilarious action-packed scenes that get wilder and wilder as the pages pass. Just beware that yes, this book seems to be one you’d read at bedtime and yes, that action belies the end-of-day calm you need then, but things quiet down pretty quickly in the tale and it may be perfectly safe for sleepytime.

Overall, whether this is a daytime book or one for later in the evening, it’s great for the 3-to-5-year-old who’ll collapse in giggles at the mere mention of the title word. For him, “Underwear!” is a book he’ll want to see.

More:Bookworm: Loss and the price of life

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.