Dog Man: Grime and Punishment

Cover of Dav Pilkey's book Dog Man: Grime and Punishment.

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Book Review

Dog Man: Grime and Punishment reveals a series of cartoons purportedly drawn by the main characters (George and Harold) of the Captain Underpants series. Those colorful drawings feature a crime-fighting human with a dog’s head; his arch rival, Petey the Cat; Petey’s evil villain dad … and a tale of friendship, loss, grief and forgiveness.

Abandonment and the death of a parent are lightly touched on here. But they’re both subtly addressed only in the sense of how those things can make you feel, and how you can deal with those feelings.

This is a funny, engaging and sometimes downright silly graphic novel that talks about doing good and being a good friend, too. And it also gives kids a few lessons on how to draw cartoons like George and Harold’s. There’s even a fun English lesson on adverbs.

Plot Summary

George and Harold—two comic book-drawing pals of Captain Underpants fame—have a new set of comics to share about a favorite character of theirs: Dog Man!

This hero is the result of an explosion that nearly killed a hard-working policeman and his loyal police dog. But instead of letting both perish, the fast-thinking medical professionals stitched the uninjured head of the loyal pup to the hard-working body of the good-guy cop, and Dog Man was born. And he has continued fighting crime and keeping the city safe from evildoers ever since.

Dog Man does have one little problem, however. He tends to act a little too much like a dog sometimes. And after yet another incident where his doggy actions embarrassed the mayor, he is unequivocally fired from the police force. Thankfully for Dog Man, though, his good buddy Li’l Petey and creative robot 80-HD come up with a perfect plan to get him rehired: disguise him as a cat.

Meanwhile, Li’l Petey’s dad, Petey, (who used to be the world’s most evil cat) is still trying to live a life of doing good. But that’s not easy, because he has all this anger and hate down deep inside. And it’s all aimed at his father, a guy who abandoned Petey and his mother in the past when she was sick and dying. Petey is having a tough time dealing with all this past hurt, but he’s trying for the sake of his beloved Li’l Petey.

And meanwhile again, Petey’s dad (Li’l Petey’s grandpa) is out in the world doing bad stuff. He brought a giant lunch bag to life to terrorize the city. And he used a new invention to turn himself into a powerful supervillain named CRUD.

Can Dog Man a.k.a. Cat Man figure out how to scratch out this CRUD-dy crime wave?

Can Petey keep doing good?

Can Li’l Petey help his father forgive and maybe heal a little, too?

It’s all spelled out here.

Christian Beliefs

Actually, there are quite a few Christian values at play here, even if they’re not specifically spelled out in a biblical context. One of those is the need, for our own sake as well as the sake of others, to find a way to forgive someone who’s wronged us.

For instance, when Petey tries to explain to his son why he struggles so with his deep-seated feelings, as well as dealing with the mean-hearted, hurtful things his father did, he gently says: “Look, kid … sometimes bad things happen  … and you can’t just forgive … and you can’t forget! Sometimes all you’ve got left is hate!” Li’l Petey hugs his dad and replies: “I don’t know, Papa. Hate has caused a lot of problems in this world … but it hasn’t solved one yet.”

The comics also point to the fact that loss and grief can sometimes go hand in hand and impact us in ways that we don’t even recognize. And it’s only through love, tenderness to loved ones and, sometimes, purposely chosen forgiveness that we find a way to let go of heavy emotions. The book also touches on the idea of believing in an afterlife.

Other Belief Systems

None.

Authority Roles

If you look closely enough, you see that author Dav Pilkey is exploring the ramifications of emotional abuse in family situations, and the fact that abuse can potentially lead to a cycle of ongoing abuse through subsequent generations. It’s all handled subtly and woven into broad, colorful cartoons, so it’s not dark-feeling at all. In fact, those topics are handled very well here and are resolved with an uplifting feeling of family love and unity. The book also offers more than simple declarations that you should love and be kind to others. It also suggests that’s it’s OK to not necessarily like the people who have hurt you. But forgiveness, it says, is about absolving someone of the harm they’ve caused and letting go, moving on, for your own sake.

Profanity & Violence

No foul language here. Just one use of “Darn it!” and a reference to someone’s “butt.”

There’s quite a bit of comic thumping in the comic book mix. (Hey, Dog Man makes a lot of mud-splashing, grimy messes.) And there is some monstery destruction of buildings, too. But it’s all very cartoony.

 

Sexual Content

None.

Discussion Topics

Get free discussion questions for a variety of books, at FocusOnTheFamily.com/discuss-books.

At one point in the book Petey says: “Only hate can defeat hate!” Do you think that’s true? Why do you think it was important for Li’l Petey to try and deal with his Grampa’s destructive choices without being mean and hateful? Why did he want his dad to forgive his grandpa?

Do you know someone who has lost a loved one? Or who’s been hurt by someone? How would you help them with their sad feelings? Would you need to say anything at all? What can you do?

Do you think being mean to someone can hurt them in other ways than just making them sad? When someone is mean to you what does it make you want to do? Do you think we can be destined to be good or to be evil? Deep down, are we essentially good or bad?

What was going on when Petey and Li’l Petey went for their walk at the end of the book? When Petey said, “It’s your story, kid. You can color it any way you want,” what do you think he meant? When you finished this book how did it leave you feeling?

Additional Comments

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Bob Hoose 

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