My Dog is Better Than Your Dog (Crime Biters #1)

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My Dog is Better Than Your Dog (Crime Biters #1)
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Release Date
September 29, 2015
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Jimmy Bishop loves doing 3 things: 1) Laughing at funny dog videos online, 2) watching his favorite show (Stop! Police!) on TV, 3) and reading his favorite vampire book (Fang Goodness) over and over. His self-involved older sister and workaholic Mom think he needs to stop obsessing already! But when his Dad finally allows Jimmy to get a puppy before school starts, everything changes and Jimmy has something new to focus on: his amazing dog, Abby who seems to have some very unusual habits. She sleeps all day but is wired at night, and she runs from the garlic kelp biscuit made by Jimmy's strange new babysitter Mrs. Cragg. There's just something different about Abby. Could she possibly be...a vampire? Jimmy's best friend Irwin thinks Jimmy's being ridiculous, but then when Abby uncovers a real crime in progress and helps him become friends with an actual, human girl, even Irwin has to admit that perhaps Abby might have some super powers after all.

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Encyclopedia Brown Meets Bunnicula!
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Plot/Characters/Writing Style
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Jimmy's life is anything but calm in the days leading up to 5th grade. His mother is busy at work, his father finally has some interviews for jobs, he has a funny blotch on his face, and his father finally agrees to let him have a dog! They pick out a quiet, well behaved dog at the rescue center. Jimmy wants to name the dog "Happy", but his dad hears "Abby". Good enough. Abby does fairly well but runs afoul of Mrs. Cragg, the new babysitter hired since Jimmy's dad is busy with interviews and older sister Misty is too busy as well. Jimmy and his best friend Irwin start to notice some strange things about the new dog. Abby doesn't like sun, sleeps all day and has enormous fangs. Is it possible that she's a vampire, like the character in Jimmy's favorite books? When school starts, Jimmy is still concerned about the blotch on his face, and the other kids give him a bit of a hard time, with the exception of Daisy, a new neighbor of Jimmy's who is cute, nice, AND stands up to bully Baxter Bratford. When things get weird with Mrs. Cragg, Abby's abilities are even more apparent, and when things get bad, her skills help save Jimmy and his friends.
Good Points

Greenwald has done great middle school books like Charlie Joe Jackson's Guide to Not Reading, and always puts together a nice ensemble cast with a touch of romance. Jimmy is a well-defined character with very specific interests (television cop shows, vampires), and he assigns these qualities to his dog in an interesting way. Irwin is a good sidekick, alternately being brave when Jimmy is scared, but wary when Jimmy is a bit too head strong. Daisy is delightfully no-nonsense, and I like that she becomes friends with Jimmy at first because she feels sorry for him, but later is glad they are friends because she enjoys being around him. Even Baxter, whose bullying is a bit too stereotypical for my taste, is brought into the group in a way that makes sense.

It's difficult to come up with mysteries for younger students to solve, and the theft ring is portrayed fairly realistically, with a ring leader who is frighteningly violent but ultimately harmless. This adds a bit of spice to a story that otherwise would be reminiscent of Encyclopedia Brown, if Encyclopedia were watching too much television! I appreciated that the parents were kept out of the way of interfering with the mystery by being busy at work, and not by being killed off!

Dog stories are plentiful for elementary readers, and this is a nice change from more standard stories. I might be proven wrong in future books in the series, but I am not convinced that Abby is actually a vampire. Of course, is she is, what would happen if she met Bunnicula, the vampire bunny? It's a rare series that leaves me guessing about the direction the next book will take, so I'll be watching to see what Abby and Jimmy get up to next!
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