I find Space Pup to be a fun adventure for kids, with fun illustrations and adventures to be had. The only things I don't like are the plot holes and unexplained things around the trip to other planets. This is perhaps not a problem for younger readers, but I'd prefer for young readers to be exposed to things that make sense rather than being too illogical.
First, how can you spend the summer traveling to other planets with space pup and astro cat without your parents missing both you and the dog and cat? If the travel is just a mental journey, then what is your body doing the whole time that you are really back on Earth? Does the travel take no real time for your body on Earth? Second, it seems as if your adventures on other planets actually are just mental journeys because several of the endings basically involve you waking up back at home. There is apparently no real peril involved, but why not make it clear that this is not a real journey in the first place? As a final critique/suggestion for improvement: if the journey to other planets is all mental, why not have the character go to Paris for the summer, have adventures in the real world during the days and alternate that line of stories with mental journeys to space while sleeping at night, or perhaps just while daydreaming? Maybe that would be too confusing to do for younger readers, but it's something I'd love to see done.
A cat, huh? I don't recall you or your superdog, Homer, crossing paths with a cat named Zogg in either of your prior adventures--The Haunted House and Return to Haunted House--but maybe I just don't remember it. Either way, Zogg is your second pet as you begin Space Pup. After establishing in Return to Haunted House that Homer is the most intelligent being on earth, superior to humans in almost every way, you now find that he's even more than a super-sleuth capable of solving the world's great mysteries. Homer and Zogg have interstellar connections, too, and thus are able to provide you a mind-boggling alternative this summer to your plans to visit your friend Janice in Paris, France: a trip through space, where the possible destinations are virtually endless. You could discover secrets of the universe and conscious life that have never been dreamed by humanity. Do you dare pass up the opportunity?
If you elect to zoom around the galaxy with Homer and Zogg, you'll make the acquaintance of good friends of theirs, an alien race called the Squarks, on the planet Ploxx. It can be hard enough for humans of differing background to get along, so don't be disappointed if conversation with the first Squark you meet runs off the rails. Homer and Zogg have your back, two of the most formidable sentient creatures in our universe, so you shouldn't have any major problems; even if you don't choose to stick close by them, they'll make sure you don't come to harm... most of the time. There is at least one ending that may not turn out well for you, but it's hard to argue that your two household pets don't do their utmost on your behalf. What are friends for, after all? Act wisely and observe carefully, and you might realize there's something you can do when you return to earth to make our planet a better place, and be inspired to do all you can toward that end with the years of your life.
If you decide you don't want to give up a summer in lively, cozy Paris with Janice, not even for the excitement of space adventure, don't worry: you won't have to part ways with Homer and Zogg. Your loyal dog and cat are happy to go with you to France; in their own words, "Adventure is everywhere." Paris isn't as macrocosmically awesome as outer space, but you can choose to skip town in favor of Mexico if French culture is too slow for your tastes. There, in the ancient refuge of Chichén Itzá, you can explore the deeper mysteries of the galaxy alongside Homer and Zogg, just as you would have had you visited the Squarks on the planet Ploxx. In the end, wherever you go, you know your greatest blessing isn't the one-of-a-kind chance to explore this world and others at your convenience, but the fact that you have a pair of friends like Homer and Zogg, devoted to you through it all. "It is wonderful to have such good friends, you think. You hope you are as good a friend to them as they are to you." That line comes from the ending on page sixty-one of Space Pup, and surely is the best page of the book.
Return to Haunted House and now this second sequel, Space Pup, are enormously different from the original book, The Haunted House, yet they can be fun in their own way. I do like the original Bantam Skylark version of The Haunted House best of the three books; the action is disconcertingly abrupt and unfocused, but it's a good read, anyway. Former Disney background animator Keith Newton's artwork in Return to Haunted House, Space Pup, and the Dragonlark reissue of The Haunted House is colorful and enjoyable, but I'll still take the black-and-white drawings done by Paul Granger in the Bantam Skylark edition of The Haunted House. I appreciate the author dedication of Space Pup, "For Shannon", longtime wife of R. A. Montgomery and successful gamebook creator in her own right. Since Space Pup was R.A. Montgomery's last Choose Your Own Adventure solo writing credit before his death in late 2014, the book can be viewed as the final flourish to a fine career as an author and literary innovator, and it's nice that he dedicated his farewell effort to Shannon Gilligan. Space Pup may not be one of my very favorite R. A. Montgomery books, but there is some good to be found here, and I recommend it for the author's fans. Thank you, R. A. Montgomery, for a distinguished lifetime of contributions to kid lit.
|Special Thanks:||Thanks to KenJenningsJeopardy74 for the images.|
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Choose Your Own Adventure - Dragonlarks edition
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