Hot Diggity Dog

Book Reviews

Booklist:
Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog.

Sylver, Adrienne (author). Illustrated by Elwood H. Smith.
May 2010. 32p. Dutton, hardcover, $16.99 (9780525478973). K-Grade 3. 641.3.
REVIEW. First published April 15, 2010 (Booklist).

The fact that there is so much argument about who made the first hot dog says a lot about its appeal. (If you say “frank,” you’re siding with the Frankfurt, Germany, contingent; if you say “wiener,” you’re making the folks in Vienna, Austria, happy.) This zany picture book takes eaters—that is, readers—through the snack’s journey from Roman pig-intestine delicacy to its modern ubiquity at ball parks, cookouts, and dinner tables. Key for the American audience is the nineteenth-century immigration that led to dog stands gaining popularity in hot spots like Coney Island. Sidebars patterned with a retro-cool look clash with the Mad magazine–style cartoon art, but the visual chaos is intentional and plays into the mustard-stained mitts of the target audience. Fun facts fly fast and furious: L.A. is America’s dog-hungriest city; the wiener equivalent at South African sporting events is beetroot salad. Also included are regional dog differences (get that ketchup off my Chicago Dog!), the rise of the veggie dog, recipes, and plenty of mouth-watering photos. Don’t read before lunch. — Daniel Kraus

Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books:
Sylver, Adrienne.  Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog; illus. by Elwood H. Smith.   Dutton, 2010.  32p
ISBN 978-0-525-47897-3      $16.99             Ad Gr. 3-6

In a dog-eat-dog world, the hot dog is probably the most eaten dog of all, and Sylver offers a factual overview of the tube steak that has become a staple American food. The book covers the wiener’s roots in sausage, a foodstuff that traces back to Roman times, and then discusses its arrival as a popular street food in the nineteenth century and its subsequent rise in popularity. Notwithstanding the subtitle, the book also describes hot-dog making, hot-dog fixin’s, extreme hot-dog eating contests, and a panoply of other information. The result is a lightweight concoction with a lot of filler and little nutritional value—there are errors (the capital of Austria after which the dog gets one of its many names is Wien, not Wein), unsubstantiated rumor or lore (some nameless man somewhere in nineteenth-century New York is credited as creating the hot dog as we know it), and diversions into non-dog topics (is it really relevant what foods Elizabethan theater audiences threw at the stage?). However, it’s also a snackable subject in a browsable layout, with a modest couple of paragraphs on each spread complemented by nibbly factoids in sidebar balloons. Smith’s usual Krazy Kat–esque cartooning gains additional absurdity from the interpolation of photocollage elements, whether in urban backgrounds or foregrounded, strangely placed hot dogs. Ultimately, the Wikipedia article on the subject is more thorough and informative, but this could sate the appetite of readers looking for some literary fast food. The book closes with a couple of recipes, some websites and books mentioned for interest, and a “bibliography” that includes books and websites. DS

Horn Book Guide:
Sylver, Adrienne Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog
   32 pp. Dutton 2010. ISBN 978-0-525-47897-3
(3) K-3 Illustrated by Elwood H. Smith.
This exuberant look at the 523-year-old (give or take) hot dog provides a historical backdrop to the economical, no-fuss food. The text describes the frank’s evolution from sausage and examines its enduring popularity. One senses that Sylver and Smith, who supplies gag-filled cartoony art, could make the history of lint entertaining. Sidebars share additional facts; two recipes are included. Reading list, websites. Bib.

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