The Last Series, written and illustrated by Harry Horse, 104 pp, RL 2
In this epistolary quartet of books by Harry Horse, Grandfather and his intrepid dog Roo are always off on one adventure or another, sending letters home to his grandchild, all accompanied by Horse's wonderful pen and ink illustrations that are reminiscent of Ernest H Shepherd's work. Every book includes a map of the region that Grandfather and Roo are scouring, always on a new quest. Below are the endpapers from The Last of the Polar Bears, giving readers a little taste of what is to come.
In The Last of the Gold Diggers: Being as it were, an Account of a Small Dog's Adventures Down Under, Grandfather and Roo head to the Outback to find Great Uncle Vincent, who went there years ago to seek his fortune. Grandfather and Roo are always traveling by some sort of rundown, rickety form of transportation and this time it is Quality Airlines. Like his picture book illustrations, Horse's stories are filled with all sorts of interesting little details. Quality Airlines has no baggage compartments and old arm chairs nailed to the floor for seating and, by some happy coincidence, a dog loo which Roo visits repeatedly. Once the duo hit the ground the search is on, with golf cart chock full of necessities in tow. Prospects look increasingly bleak until they find Gold Town, which was mentioned often in Uncle Vincent's letters. Gold Town, it turns out, is run entirely by animals. There is even a Home for Retired Pack Animals. When the search seems at it's lowest point and dehydration certain, things take a turn for Grandfather and Roo and there is a happy ending for all that involves rabbits!
The rest of the series is equally full of charming details, suspenseful adventure and hijinks from Roo. In The Last of the Cowboys the duo find themselves and their golf cart in America in search of Roo's grandfather, said to be living among the cowboys and having a successful movie career. In The Last of the Castaways Roo has purchased the ship Unsinkable, and now she and Grandfather must capture the King Cod as a means to paying for it. Finally, in the Last of the Polar Bears Grandfather and Roo are indeed looking for the last of the polar bears, by way of a cruise on the Unsinkable.Storms, seasickness and trying to train Roo to pull a dog sled make for some funny moments on the way to Great Bear Ridge.
These books are so full of imagination, geography, history and humor that they make the Magic Tree House books look like ax code manuals. The Last Quartet would make perfect bedtime reading for those who are not reading chapter books on their own!