Years back, Patrick McDonnell created the simple yet lovable Mutts, a comic strip featuring a couple of little cats and dogs, most notably Mooch and Earl. Every Sunday people peruse the comics and enjoy a little dose of Mutts. But Patrick McDonnell decided to take another step and began to create books just for kids so they could enjoy a few adventures just as sweet and simple as the characters that inhabit the pages.
Wag features Mooch, Earl, and Earl’s tail. Mooch the cat isn’t exactly sure what it is that makes Earl’s tail go fwip-fwap. Every time it happens, it’s because of something different. Earl gets dinner. He gets his tummy rubbed. He gets taken on nice long walks. Even a field of pretty flowers does it or drifting snowflakes does it. Mooch eventually decides that it isn’t just one thing—it’s what they all have in common. What else but love could make Earl’s tail wiggle like that?
This is the sort of children’s book that comes with an uncomplicated message that even parents can appreciate. The simple things in life that one loves are what can be the most important. If a little dog named Earl can be so happy with his friends or fields of flowers, then why can’t we? Of course, enjoying a belly rub is more suited for dogs than humans, but hugs can do just fine. Parents can even take the story and shift the idea to their children, asking them what it is they love enough that would make their tail fwip-fwip—that is, if they had one.
Patrick McDonnell’s books are well-known not only for their happy, cozy stories, but also for the minimal illustrations within. Each page has a pale tint, acting as a backdrop for whatever Mooch and Earl happen to be doing in the foreground. The focus is entirely on them and kids will love the down-to-earth, ever so slightly sketchy style.
It’s primarily designed for children ages 4-8 or fans of Mooch and Earl. It’s hard not to appreciate these books and their reflection for the way one man views the world. The way many of us still wish we might.