I must say that among the three LaRue books that I’ve read, this by far is my favorite. While Letters from Obedience School would have its novel quality and appeal being the first of the series, I found myself laughing out loud more in this book with Ike aiming to continually outdo himself as you get to know his character better through each batch of letters that you read from him. So far, we have Letters from Obedience School, Letters from the Investigation and this latest one, Letters from the Campaign Trail.
In contrast to the first two books, this one had more newspaper clippings on top of LaRue’s staple letters to the perenially absent Mrs. LaRue (one thing that’s constant across all three books: her absence is a necessity, otherwise, the letters are moot and pointless). The presence of more newspaper posts might be because Ike LaRue is running for public office. How nice right? The irony and the metaphor of a dog running for office is not lost to me (although Mark Teague may not necessarily have that kind of intention). In the first two books, the newspaper clipping was merely included to introduce the overarching theme somewhere in the beginning and another one in the end once the conflict has been resolved. In this book, it is part and parcel of the narrative’s development.
Who is Ike? Now that I’ve read three Teague books, I could perhaps have a more
educated characterization of who Ike LaRue is. Imagine a niece/nephew (or your own child), around 3 years of age, with boundless energy, driving you up the wall with manipulative rationalizations of why he should absolutely get what he wants, climbing on top of coffeetables, toppling over spindly chairs – yet your child remains chubby-cheeked with puppy-dog eyes and a squeal that could turn your heart into mush – that perhaps in so many words (as is my wont) would be Ike LaRue – only this time we’re talking about a dog. He remains .. adorable while at the same time he drives you absolutely bonkers – well in Mrs. LaRue’s case – confined to a hospital when this said hotdog cart got overturned.
Here, we find LaRue’s mischievous nature take on a different twist as he roams the city, playfully snatching baseballs from an official ongoing baseball game at the Morley field, stealing beef sausages from Branmeier’s Butcher Shop on Second Avenue, and using Mrs. LaRue’s home as his official campaign headquarters.
The candidate Bugwort has had enough of these ‘rambunctious’ dogs who were on the ‘rampage’, and he gets unbelievably upset by these ‘scurrilous’ attacks. Thus, he proposed that the wayward dogs should be on a leash and should have a (horror of horrors) curfew to ensure that they would not be a menace to society.
Would Ike take this sitting down? Of course not, his fiercely-independent character shall NOT allow this to happen. Hence, the ingenious plan of the underdogs:
A Celebration of Mischief. If I were to think of a theme that would capture the essence of the series, it would be this celebration of the unruly, respect for the occasional disarray, and the grudging admiration for Ike’s capacity to extricate himself from trouble and redeem himself with such panache, humor, and word play (Ike’s typing skills never cease to amaze me). Vote Ike LaRue for Mayor!