JR and his embassy friends Robert, Pie, and Beatrix are on their way to Prague! Having solved the mystery of the missing dogs in Moscow, JR is ready for a vacation with his human, George, and George’s Russian girlfriend, Nadya. And where better to distract themselves than in Prague, taking in the sights and meeting Nadya’s brother, a circus performer.
But something is amiss at the circus—the animals are unhappy. The boxing kangaroo doesn’t want to box, the dancing chimpanzee doesn’t want to dance. Not only that, but a fancy new circus is coming to town, threatening to put everyone out of a job. It’s up to JR and the embassy dogs to save the show, with the help of some unlikely accomplices.
In The Metro Dogs of Moscow, we were introduced to JR, the Canadian embassy dog who had recently moved to Moscow with his owner. There, he and his other embassy friends – Robert, Pie and Beatrix – joined the adventures of the local street dogs as they saved the day. Even heroes deserve a break after their most recent adventures, so in this book, JR and his friends travel with humans George, John and Nadia to Prague to visit Nadia’s brother at the Circus Sergei and to take in the sights of the beautiful historic city. As a bonus for us, a change of scene means new characters and new adventures for JR and his pack!
Sadly, though, things are not going well at the Circus. The flashy Circus Magnificus has lured away many of the performers, and the animals who are part of the circus are very unhappy. Things aren’t much better at home as Nadia, George’s girlfriend, has rescued (horror of horrors!) a cat named Kisa! Can JR and his friends find a solution to all their problems?
First and foremost, it must be said that reading about JR’s escapades are like taking mini adventures to amazing places. As with the first book in the series, JR’s travels allow us to experiences the sensory delights of an exotic city. From dumplings to cukarnas (cake shops), from beautiful architecture to historic parks, we experience the smells, tastes, and beauty of Prague along with JR and his friends. As a bonus, historical details are woven into the story so cleanly that younger readers won’t realize that they are learning something along with this entertaining tale.
Ultimately, it’s the charm of the characters that engages the reader. JR continues his journey towards being a better dog, facing his own fear of cats and of losing his connection to his human George. The elegant Beatrix, the good-natured Robert and the star-struck Pie (ah, Pie! We love you so!) make for a wonderful Greek chorus for JR in his journeys, while also experiencing some adventures of their own. If nothing else, Pie’s side story about becoming a “barking” word poet is hysterical, and fits his character perfectly! There’s also a cast of charming new characters who add to the fun. A Houdini goose, dubbed “The Rubber Chicken”, an acrobatic chimp and a trampolining kangaroo all yearn to demonstrate their real skills in the circus, and are set to steal the show from the moment we meet them.
Without spoilers, there are life lessons to be learned for both four-legged and human characters. Fighting like cats and dogs may be natural behaviour, but it’s not a way to live your life and both JR and Kisa needs to learn to connect in order to save the circus. JR learns to face his fears, and that saying sorry costs you nothing and gains everything. Pie was able to follow his heart in order to reach for his dream, and the entire pack learned that working together was the only way to move forward.
Fans of the first book will love the chance to reconnect with JR. Robert, Pie and Beatrix, and to meet the new animals and people in JR’s life. Not to worry if you haven’t read the first book in the series, as Delaney makes it easy to find your way within the first few pages of the novel. This second novel is a delight for middle grade readers and dog lovers of all ages.
The Circus Dogs of Prague is available for purchase at your favourite bookstore. ISBN: 978-0-14-318416-4, 192 pages.