Dear Mrs. LaRue: Letters from Obedience School : Letters From Obedience School

by Mark Teague, Illustrated By Mark Teague

Scholastic Press
September 2003

Ages 4 – 8 . Grades PreK – 3

Library of Congress: 2001043479

Lexile measure: 730L

DRA: 30

Guided Reading: N



When Ike Larue is "imprisoned" at the Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy, he tries everything to get sent home--weepy letters to his owner, even illness. In reality, Brotweiler is more like camp than prison, but still, Ike's not cut out for life w/o Mrs. Larue & his creature comforts. Finally, he runs away only to find himself back in Snort City--just in time to save Mrs. Larue's life.Teague is at the top of his fetching form in this madcap comedy where the real world of Brotweiler & the one Ike imagines are brilliantly depicted thru split-screen visuals, the former in color & the latter in b&w.
Mark Teague

Mark Teague is the internationally bestselling illustrator (and author) of more than 50 books for children. His numerous awards and honors include the Book Sense Book of the Year Award and the Christopher Medal. He has illustrated 12 full-size books and 11 board books in the widely successful How Do Dinosaurs...? series. He is the author of the popular Dear Mrs. LaRue, Firehouse!, and Jack and the Beanstalk and the French Fries. He lives in New York State.


  • A dog's life is hardly to be envied if one believes the words of Ike, a rambunctious pooch sentenced to obedience school by his exasperated owner, Mrs. LaRue. Having repeatedly terrorized the neighbors' cats and snatched one snack too many from the kitchen counter, Ike finds himself enrolled at Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy. The hero begins a clever letter-writing campaign to Mrs. LaRue that paints a grim (and hopefully guilt-inducing) picture of his Brotweiler experience. But readers are privy to the hilarious truth. Teague (How Do Dinosaurs Say Good Night?) depicts the pampered pup at the spa-like academy in brightly colored vignettes, juxtaposed with black-and-white prison-like scenes that illustrate Ike's imagined hardship. He composes his correspondence with dramatic flair, whether describing his "inmate" experience ("The guards here are all caught up in this good dog, bad dog' thing") or reflecting on his misdeeds back at home ("Were the neighbors really complaining about my howling?... Let's recall that these are the same neighbors who are constantly waking me up in the middle of the afternoon with their loud vacuuming").Throughout, the devilish laughs are in the details (waiters in white coats serving academy dogs gourmet meals and frozen drinks; Ike's images of a hard life in striped prison garb plus ball-and-chain). Even the duo's reunion (to much fanfare) plays off of an earlier joke. All in all, a tail-wagger of a book that will have readers howling with amusement.--Publishers Weekly, July 22, 2002 starred review
    An epistolary picture book detailing the misadventures of a very imaginative dog at obedience school. Ike the terrier is a reluctant student at the Igor Brotweiler Canine Academy, and sends daily letters home describing the tortures he's undergoing at school: "Needless to say, I am being horribly mistreated. You say I should be patient and accept that I'll be here through the term. Are you aware that the term lasts TWO MONTHS? Do you know how long that is in dog years?" In a series of inspired double-page spreads, the bright acrylic illustrations depict Ike scrivening away in the plushest possible surroundings, while he imagines (appropriately enough in black-and-white) what he describes. As Ike complains about the food, the reader sees him seated at a table covered in a white tablecloth and decorated with roses; his fevered imagination, however, conjures up a vision of a burly, tattooed cook standing over a cauldron and pointing at a sign that says "No howling, biting, scratching, growling, slobbering, or barking, and no seconds!" as Ike, prison-stripe-clad, forlornly holds up his dog dish. The concept is fun, but it's a one-note joke that depends on a highly developed sense of irony to appreciate. Teague's first offering as author/illustrator since One Halloween Night (1999) demonstrates a mastery of illustration without an accompanying command of textual narration; the overlong text bogs down as the reader attempts to figure out what's really going on: does Ike really want to go back home? does he really believe what he describes? is he simply trying to make Mrs. LaRue feel guilty? The work as a whole is energetic but ultimately fails to follow through on a promising concept.--Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 2002
    Ike is one bad dog, so it's off to the Brotweiler Canine Academy, school for errant pooches. The dog has been known to steal food, chase the neighbor's cats, and destroy clothing. From school, Ike writes home to his person, Gertrude LaRue. Black-and-white illustrations portray the canine's version of his confinement, while splashes of color show the reality. According to Ike, it's a real prison at the academy; he's even got the striped outfit to prove it. In reality, he is lodged at a virtual doggy resort and spa, complete with sauna, pool, and gourmet eats. In his letters, the pooch begs to come home, and offers up a defense of his so-called crimes. After a month of such harsh-uh,