Best in Show: Top Dogs by Time Home Entertainment
BABE RUFF STEPS OUT OF THE BATTER'S BOX. THE NEW YORKIE POINTS TO THE CENTERFIELD BLEACHERS.
SOME SAY HE WAS PREDICTING A HOMERUN.
SOME THINK HE MERELY SPOTTED A SQUIRREL IN THE STANDS.
EITHER WAY, THE KENNEL WENT WILD WHEN BABE RUFF BLASTED A HOMERUN ON THE NEXT PITCH.
Some may say Sports Illustrated Kids Top Dogs: Babe Ruff and the Legendary Canines of Sports (Time Home Entertainment/Sports Illustrated, 2013) is a one-trick puppy, and they'd be safe on base in saying so. But with a clever collection of athletes' names punned into shape as canine breeds and earnest dog faces photoshopped onto the athletes' own bodies, this book is a bit of a grand-slam howl.
Michael Jordan becomes Air-Jor-Dane; Charles Barkley becomes Sir Charles Bark-leg; Walter Payton becomes Walterrier Payton; Jose "Big Papi" Ortiz comes when called "Big Puppy;" and diminutive but doughty Doug Flutie becomes Pug Flutie, famous for his (snicker) "flea flicker" play.
And it's not just the leaders of the pack in baseball, football, and basketball, sports-wise, who get the treatment. Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps morphs into Michael Yelps, and the historic runner who first broke the four-minute mile, Sir Roger Bannister becomes Sir Rover Bannister. The witty editors even seem to have made an effort to fit the breed to the physiognomy of the star player being spoofed, as evidenced by the Babe Ruff bulldog who is their cover boy.
In spoofy sections titled "Best in Show," "Underdogs," "Every Dog Has His Day," "Most Valuable Puppies," and "Hot Dogs," there are plenty of nuggets of personal information and stats about each player featured with each canine character for sports-infatuated readers to gobble up, and quite a few drool-worthy puns carried off in this small volume. The only kibble (er, quibble) might be that readers have to know who the sports hero is to get the pun (how many fourth graders know about Roger Bannister's four-minute mile in the 'fifties, for example), but the thumbnail biography which follows quickly fills in any gaps. Kids (and grownups) who are game for popular sports and are wise in the wondrous ways of wordplay will definitely paws (er, pause) to sit and stay for this tasty doggy treat.