Half-way through the story, Smith reveals the dogs’ back stories, adding much-needed insight into the characters but painting a troubling portrait of two of the previous owners. Doofus’s previous owner lives in a trailer park, is unemployed, lazy, angry, and won’t work for money and so orchestrates dog fights instead. This stereotypical poor white couple is matched by the Mexican family who once owned Pancho, the man working in construction, the woman bearing six kids, and her kids each having six kids of their own. That portrayal is presumably intended as complimentary, but it smacks of the “model minority” myth.
Despite the flawed human characterizations, The Garbage Can Gang still manages to tug at the heartstrings and show how small things like kindness can make a difference in people–or pups’–lives. Ale Moreno’s lively illustrations also bring welcome personality to the characters, focusing on the details of the dogs, like the scar on Doofus’s face, or the poofy hair on Meghan. Ultimately a tale of adventure, friendship, and the joys of home, dog lovers will find pleasure in The Garbage Can Gang: Home At Last, though adults should be prepared to discuss stereotypes with young readers.
Takeaway: A heartfelt entry in the storytelling tradition about dogs and the powers of love and friendship.
Great for fans of: Jamie White’s Shelter Dog Blues, Sarah Clark Jordan’s The BossQueen, Little BigBark, and the Sentinel Pup.
Design and typography: A
Marketing copy: A