This is the story of four puppies: Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston. Gaston works the hardest at his lessons on how to be a proper pooch. He sips—never slobbers! He yips—never yaps! And he walks with grace—never races! Gaston fits right in with his poodle sisters.
But a chance encounter with a bulldog family in the park—Rocky, Ricky, Bruno, and Antoinette—reveals there’s been a mix-up, and so Gaston and Antoinette switch places. The new families look right…but they don’t feel right. Can these puppies follow their noses—and their hearts—to find where they belong?
From School Library Journal
PreS-Gr 2—Mrs. Poodle has new puppies, Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La, and Gaston, but one of them is not like the others. Next to his petite siblings, Gaston is stocky, ungainly, and goofy looking. One day, they encounter a rough-and-tumble bulldog family, and it's immediately clear that there has been a mix-up. Gaston's short legs and broad ears look just like those of the bulldogs', while the bulldog family includes a tiny poodle named Antoinette. What starts out as a typical "Ugly Duckling" plot becomes a tender exploration of nurture vs. nature. The pups go home with their "real" families, but everyone questions the decision. The mothers are shown gazing forlornly at family portraits, and poor Gaston has no interest in anything "brutish or brawny or brown," preferring the "proper or precious or pink" home that Antoinette scorns. The next day they joyfully switch back: "There. That looked right. And it felt right too." But the story doesn't end there. Both families continue to meet and teach each other about being tough and tender, and when Gaston and Antoinette eventually fall in love and have puppies of their own, they teach them to be whatever they want to be. Robinson's expressive acrylic paintings are bright and bold, yet simple, making masterly use of negative space and contrast. This heartwarming story of family will be a welcome addition to homes and libraries of all types.—Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN
Nature or nurture? Gaston, born into a family of fancy French poodles, looks and acts different. His coiffure, bark, and demeanor need work. His ears stick up, not down; he ruffs instead of yaps, slobbers instead of sips. Mrs. Poodle and her daughters Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, and Ooh-La-La love him just the same. Strolling in the park, the family meets a mostly bulldog clan: Rocky, Ricky, Bruno—and Antoinette. She has learned their ways, as she races, yaps, and abhors pink. The mothers decide to switch the two pooches, since each, obviously, belongs with the other clan, but in the end, no one is happy. Puppies are reexchanged, and all works out for the best, especially when Gaston and Antoinette marry. Though readers will probably want to know how the mistake happened (and a mix-up would have been easy to show on the title page), they will mostly adore this joyous tale. The pictures, rendered in simple shapes of warm acrylic colors, are a delight, celebrating each dog’s expressive personality. Kids who might feel the odd man out in their own families will take heart from this. Preschool-Grade 1. --Lolly Gepson