Reviewed by Poppy Johnson

Kurt, Gert, Jazmine, and Bagel is about four dogs who learn the value of friendship, trust, and love through an urban adventure of play. Irene Dolnick, the author of the children’s story, tells the story of the four doggy friends through pictures and text. The pictures are pleasant to see because watercolor shades and happy-looking dogs decorate the pages. The text contains a confusing storyline and its flow is broken with phonetics sprinkled throughout the story itself.

Spoiler Alert:
The story centers on a dog named Kurt, who lives in a neighborhood with his friends Gert and Jazmine. All three dogs have pedigrees, a concept that Dolnick includes in the story to teach children about the value of friendships no matter a person’s station in life.

On a cold day when he is inside watching life outside his window, Gert sees Kurt and becomes lonely since he is by himself. The two dogs end up avoiding the cold inside a home together, but Jazmine is left to fend for herself outside, hungry and tired. At this point in the story Dolnick is beginning her lesson for children about including others—especially friends. Jazmine meets a new dog, Bagel, who does not have a pedigree. Bagel takes her to a restaurant for dogs, and he tells her over dinner that she needs to learn to trust herself more,. Bagel and Jazmine also have a conversation about losing each other to new adventures. Jazmine then calls Kurt to say she was jealous of his friendship with Gert. Kurt tells Jazmine they are friends no matter what or who else comes along, even though she was initially jealous of Kurt and Gert’s friendship. Here Dolnick references the importance of children trusting in themselves as individuals valuable to others—if a person is friends with you, Dolnick’s story relates, then they are your friend even if new friends come along.

Kurt, Gert, Jazmine, and Bagel is a book geared for young children learning to read. The text is black with red highlights of the phonetic spellings of words printed below the sentences. For example, if one of the characters has a cough, the word in the story is described as “coughed (Kaw ffd)”. Children need to learn phonetics to become good readers, but I prefer that my children learn the correct spelling of the word and learn their sounds through other educational materials.

I found the names of the dogs annoying as they are remarkably similar. The story line, also, is confusing, with the varying themes of pedigree, jealousy, and adventure occurring simultaneously. I would not recommend the book, unless you have fully looked at all aspects of the book and are certain you will like its text, content, and prose. I also feel that the $29.95 price tag of Kurt, Gert, Jazmine, and Bagel is too high for the quality of the book.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆ 

After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.em>

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Outskirts Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.