The Curse of the Scarab
by H.Y. Hanna
4 stars - dark, scary, fun
ALR Yellow - because it's dark and scary (see above)
This is the first in a series of adventure / mystery stories for young people featuring Honey the Great Dane.
From the back cover
Honey the Great Dane enjoyed a pretty peaceful life: walking her human, checking Peemail at the park... until the arrival of a puppy named Bean turns her life upside down. But when Bean goes missing - together with other neighborhood pups - Honey sets out on a dangerous quest to find them.
The book is written from Honey's perspective. Along with her best pals from the dog park, Honey is determined to find those puppies. Her sidekicks, a husky, a beagle, and a mixed breed, are all wonderful. Ms. Hanna has really captured the quirks of the different kinds of dogs. And of course Honey herself. Absurdly large, slobbery, and with a heart of gold.
But the story is no lark. Evil is afoot and Honey and her pals find themselves in some very scary situations. There is a lot of drama packed into this short volume. I think that as an adult I was more scared than I would have been had I read this when I was an official young person. I suspect youngsters will fall completely in with the dogs and not be fretting about how long they spend away from home or what all that stuff the beagle is eating will do to his digestion.
I'd put the drama about par with a classic Disney movie. Think Bambi or 101 Dalmatians. Those movies had some pretty intense scenes and so does Curse of the Scarab. In fact I was about two thirds through and it was getting time to go to work and I was late to work because I had to finish. I couldn't take the stress of not knowing how things worked out (and, boy does she ratchet up the action in the end).
This would be a great book to read aloud to whatever child you have at hand. Plenty of opportunity to use different voices and, more importantly, lots to talk about. The moral lessons aren't in your face, but there are some important messages about always helping those who are suffering and not letting stereotypes get in the way of making new friends.
Now then, on a different note, I hope Ms. Hanna will forgive me some humor at the expense of one of her characters. That being the dog Newbie. From the moment he started speaking, all I could imagine was Carmen Ghia from The Producers. If you haven't seen the movie, watch the clip below (starting at 30 seconds).