Who fights crime and chews chairs? Dog Man, the heroic hound in Dav (pronounced “Dave”) Pilkey’s new graphic novel, “Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties.”
Dog Man is half pup and half police officer, said Pilkey, who came up with the brave-but-wacky character when he was in second grade. Back then, Pilkey got into so much trouble, his teacher moved his desk to the hall. That’s when Pilkey began making up stories about and drawing two funny characters, Dog Man and Captain Underpants. When he became an adult, Pilkey still liked these goofy characters so much that he wanted to create more tales about them.
This is the third book in the Dog Man series. But the character first appeared in Pilkey’s popular books about Captain Underpants, Pilkey said by phone as he traveled by ferry to his home on Bainbridge Island in Washington state.
Readers liked Dog Man so much that Pilkey decided to give him his own series.
In the new book, the blue-uniformed pooch must battle destructive buildings that have come to life and an evil bionic fish. Dog Man’s biggest problem, though, is Petey, a villainous cat. Petey tries to clone himself; but instead of a grown cat, he creates a sweet kitten named Li’L Petey. When the cranky feline dumps the kitten, Dog Man befriends him.
You can hear Pilkey talk about his book and how he draws his characters Thursday in Mount Airy, Maryland, and Saturday at the National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.
Pilkey credits his childhood pet, Halle, for Dog Man’s loyal, joyful personality.
Halle was a good friend to Pilkey during a tough time — when he was the only child in his class who couldn’t read.
“I struggled with dyslexia and ADHD, which made it hard to read and focus,” Pilkey said. “I was frustrated and got into trouble.”
His parents were very understanding. They hoped he might learn to read if he found books he liked. Pilkey’s mother took him to the library in their home town of Elyria, Ohio, and let him check out whatever he wanted.
“Her only rule was that if I checked it out, I had to read it,” Pilkey said with a laugh.
He brought home stacks of books that included “Where the Wild Things Are” and the “Frog and Toad” series. He and Halle would curl up in his beanbag chair, where he liked to read and create his own comic books. Sometimes he showed his work to his dog.
“Halle was always patient and enthusiastic,” Pilkey said.
At the end of his new book are photos of real kids reading with their dogs. Not only do kids and four-legged pals enjoy these experiences, but the dogs also can actually help young people become better readers, according to researchers at the University of California at Davis.
Pilkey admits to a soft spot for cats, even that scoundrel Petey. In the book, Petey changes and becomes a more complex character. The “Tale of Two Kitties” in the title reflects a famous novel for grown-ups, “A Tale of Two Cities,” by Charles Dickens. Like a character in Dickens’s story, Petey makes many bad choices, but sometimes he surprises the reader and makes a kinder choice.
This year, Pilkey celebrates the 20th anniversary of the first Captain Underpants book, “The Adventures of Captain Underpants.” Does he have any big plans?
“I’m celebrating by talking about Dog Man with kids,” Pilkey said. He’s also planning for his next book, “Dog Man and Cat Kid,” which will be published in December.
Dav Pilkey will speak and sign books at two events this week.
Where: Mount Airy Middle School,
102 West Watersville Road, Mount Airy, Maryland.
When: Thursday at 6 p.m.
How much: Free, but a parent must request tickets from A Likely Story Bookstore at 410-795-1718.
Where: National Book Festival, Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mount Vernon Place NW, Washington.
When: Saturday at 11:15 a.m. at the Children’s Purple Stage.
How much: Free.
For more information: Go to loc.gov/bookfest for the complete schedule of featured authors. Visit The Washington Post area of the Expo floor, where local authors will read from their books for children throughout the day.