HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: CatDog: Way Off Broadway
Authors: Greg Crosby and Brad McMahon
Illustrator: Niall Harding
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing, 1999
Language level: 1 (nothing objectionable)
Reading level: Ages 6-8
Rating: 2 stars (POOR)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Crosby, Greg, and McMahon, Brad. CatDog: Way Off Broadway (published in 1999 by Simon and Schuster Children’s Publishing). CatDog is an American animated television series which was created for Nickelodeon by Peter Hannan and was first aired on April 4, 1998, with the last show airing on September 22, 2001. The series depicts the life of conjoined brothers, a hybrid of a cat and dog with two heads (one at either end of its single body) and no tail or hind legs. Because of their strange condition, CatDog are seen as outcasts in the city of Nearburg and are often harassed by the Greaser Dogs, a gang of rough thugs, and their neighbor, Winslow, a devious blue mouse. Although they are best friends Cat and Dog have very different personalities. Cat is very cultured, the smarter, more clever, and more cunning of the two, while Dog, the more happy-go-lucky and more naïve of the two, is very fun-loving and enjoys chasing garbage trucks, chasing cars, and exploring many things in which Cat does not want to take part. The show had average ratings, but it managed to maintain a moderate yet loyal fan base.
Towards the end of the series run, a made-for-TV movie was released, titled CatDog: The Great Parent Mystery. We have never had cable television, at least since we had the boys, but our older son Mark would see the cartoon while we were visiting with others or staying in a motel and liked it, so my wife Karen got him some CatDog books, which are by several different authors, from the library to read. Some of them included Way Off Broadway (#4; 1999) by Greg Crosby, Brad McMahon, and Niall Harding in which Cat, with the help of Dog and some friends, writes and produces his play Hamlet of the Titanic; CatDog Catcher (1999) by K. Emily Hutta, Eliot Kong, and Emilie Kong; and CatDog’s Big Idea (1999) by Ann Braybrooks, Eliot Brown, and Niall Harding. The CatDog Trivia Book (1999) was written by Annie Auerbach and Sarah Willson. Truthfully, I cannot say that I care much for them or the cartoons because they seem to me to be rather stupid.
Albie Hecht, Nickelodeon’s senior vice president of worldwide productions, said that the creators planned for the show to “really play off of kids’ sympathies” by portraying the characters as experiencing “the worst of both worlds.” That may be why I do not like them. It is interesting that the reviewer for Children’s Literature wrote, “The fourth chapter-book in the Catdog’ series, this title may attract reluctant readers or early novel-readers, but it has very little literary merit. The story concerns the main, half-cat, half-dog character, who this time has written a play, Hamlet of the Titanic, parodying both the recent Titanic movie (by means of involving the principal actors Kate Winslow and Leonardo Di Caprio) and Shakespeare. The latter achieves dubious results, for references to Sir Laurence Olivier, the Old Vic, and actual lines from Hamlet would not likely hit home with the young readers. There are amusing illustrations, and the sentences are short and the paragraphs many. I would not stock my school library with it unless I felt compelled to attract non-readers.”