Title: The Underdogs: We’re Not the Champions
Author: Tracey West
Publisher: Scholastic Australia
Published: 1st April 2022
Synopsis: Welcome to Barksdale, where all the dogs strive for perfection. Every shopkeeper claims to be the best groomer or sell the best biscuits. And at Barksdale Academy, the pressure is on for one pup to be named Best in Show. Duke’s cousin, Coco, a French Bulldog visiting from Paris is cool, funny, and charming – especially compared to the Underdogs. So when it comes time to choose teams, it’s no surprise she ends up on Team Awesome instead of with her cousin Duke and his friends. But during the K-2 exam, Coco can’t seem to get anything right! And if Barksdale loses the field day events, everyone including the Underdogs will fail their loyalty exam! Can the Underdogs come to Coco’s rescue and save their school’s reputation?
- The second chapter book in this fun, highly illustrated series about four dogs who learn that being yourself is much more fun than being Best in Show.
- With illustrations on every page and hilarious antics throughout, this series is perfect for readers who are just starting to read chapter books on their own, or for anyone who loves a good underdog story.
- Underdogs covers the popular themes of working as a team, learning to be your best self, celebrating unique qualities, and embracing differences.
- From the best-selling author of Dragon Masters and the author/illustrator of Paris Takes Over the World.
As the K-2 loyalty exams approach at Barksdale Academy, an exchange student from Paris arrives. Duke’s cousin, Coco, is there, and she’s been assigned to Team Awesome – poor Duke fears his cousin will never like him and his friends. As she distances herself from them in the lead up to the field exams, the Underdogs throw everything they’ve got at everything – what they lack in being top dogs, they make up for in spirit, supportiveness, and finding the joy in what they do. When Coco freezes on the field, it could be up to the Underdogs to save the day!
The second book in the series sees a new set of challenges for the Underdogs, and their continued conflict with Team Awesome – whose penchant for having to be perfect all the time could just be their undoing in some ways – as the Underdogs will teach us, loyalty is something you have inside of you, it’s not something that can be taught. Again we see the Underdogs questioning themselves – which is very relatable for people of all ages across a variety of things, which is what makes these characters relatable for readers of all ages.
Who amongst us – however old we are – has not felt we could not do something? Or has felt a sense of unease or despondency about something? That nagging uncertainty and lack of confidence is reflected in these characters, but their desire to push through and plucky spirit that doesn’t allow them to simply give up shines through. As a reader I think this makes the Underdogs a great read for all ages, because sometimes we need these simpler stories to reflect these feelings, and I feel that the Underdogs series does this well, for early readers, all the way up to adult readers. The humour helps present ideas of loyalty, being yourself, being supportive, and being the best that person you can be in an entertaining and safe way. The series serves as a reminder that you don’t have to be perfect at everything – whatever Mandy and Randy say! Just enjoy doing what you like doing and do what you can do – that’s being your best self.
Using animal characters makes it fun as well, and illustrates that our animal friends also feel anxious – unlike us and the Underdogs, they just can’t vocalise it. It allows readers to explore feelings in a safe way, and I think it is a fantastic addition to the series.