By Dav Pilkey
Dav Pilkey is the author and artist of the enormously popular Captain Underpants series, as well as many other books. Dragon’s Halloween, one of his wonderful Dragon books—a favorite series of mine for beginning readers—and The Hallo-Wiener are two of my favorite Halloween books.
Pilkey has an incredible sense of humor and is acutely tuned into what kids like. His stories are funny, sweet and completely relatable, despite featuring fat dragons, baby super-heroes and dumb bunnies.
His cartoon-style art in The Hallo-Wiener is bright and bold and includes amusing touches on nearly every page: his mother’s painted-on red lipstick, the family name on the mailbox, the milk bone on his teacher’s desk, and a three-part portrait to accommodate the main character’s extra long body, just to name a few.
Oscar the dachshund was “half-a-dog tall and one-and-a-half dogs long.” It was because of this the other dogs in the neighborhood often teased him and called him “wiener dog.” Oscar’s mother certainly didn’t mean to add to his humiliation, but calling him her “little Vienna sausage” always caused the other dogs to erupt with laughter.
These incidents usually upset Oscar but today was Halloween and Oscar loved Halloween. All through obedience school he thought about scary costumes and trick-or-treating. When class was dismissed, Oscar rushed home to start working on a scary costume.
But his mother had a surprise, she’d made one for him: it was “a giant hotdog bun, complete with mustard.” Oscar did not want to disappoint his mother so he wore the costume, even though he knew what a teasing he’d get from the other dogs on the block.
Not only was Oscar mocked for his wiener costume but it was also difficult to move in. Oscar just couldn’t keep up while his friends were trick-or-treating and by the time Oscar finally arrived at the houses, the candy it was already gone. The other dogs had gotten all the treats.
Since Oscar could not keep up, he was not with the pack of dogs when they passed the spooky graveyard. He also wasn’t there when the ghastly monster arose from the spooky graveyard and scared all the other dogs into dropping their treats and jumping in a nearby pond! The dogs shrieked and howled in fright, “SOMEBODY SAVE US!”
That somebody was Oscar. He approached the frightening beast from behind and, thanks to his low vantage point, saw the huge, cloaked monster’s small, furry feet. Oscar grabbed hold of the creature’s long robe and gave a hard tug; there stood two surprised cats.
The frisky felines ran off in fright at the sight of a giant frankfurter. The soaked dogs moaned in embarrassment at being scared into a pond by a couple of cats. Oscar, forever a good friend, swam out to save the motley mutts. Turns out that hotdog costume was a perfect life raft. And Oscar’s nickname went from “Wiener dog” to “Hero sandwich.”
Jennifer Lavonier has lived in Jersey City for over fifteen years and has worked in the children’s book world for nearly twenty years. She was the manager and buyer of Books of Wonder, Manhattan’s premiere children’s bookstore, and the assistant to Maurice Sendak, the author and illustrator of Where the Wild Things Are. You can find more of her children’s book reviews on her website, TurtleAndRobot.com.