The Children’s Book Review Interview in partnership with Amy Flanagan, author of Mrs. R. Snugglesworth, Attorney-at-Law
Written from the point of view of a big-hearted, sassy retriever, Mrs. R. Snugglesworth, Attorney-at-Law is a hilarious dog’s-eye exploration of family, friendship, and problem-solving. Author Amy Flanagan’s responses to these interview questions showcase exactly why kids are loving this book. Read on!
This chapter book feels like a long experience with dogs influenced it – can you share some of the real dog stories that helped influence your writing? Is Mrs. R. based on a real furry friend?
Amy Flanagan: That’s a great question! We do have a yellow English lab who looks suspiciously like Mrs. R. and have had great fun imagining what she’s thinking, as I’m sure many dog owners do. Ironically, until five years ago, I was adamantly NOT a pet person. My husband had grown up with dogs, and our kids really wanted one, but I was a strong no. . .until one day I wasn’t. We got our dog and she wiggled right into my heart, corny as it sounds. Now we have a second one!
So stories. . .in the book, Mrs. R. and Popsicle tussle over a fish they found on the sidewalk. The premise is that the fish landed there because it had been dropped by a bald eagle that had retrieved the fish from a nearby river. In real life, I was out walking our dog several years ago and we saw a fish laying in the street. She snatched that “prize” right up but I managed to get her to release it.
That evening, my husband took her for a walk. When they got home, our dog went straight to her bed and stayed put (very unusual). Later that evening we discovered that she had found the fish again, snuck it home, and hidden it in her bed! We have no way of knowing how that fish landed in the road. . .but we do live near a river, and there is a bald eagle’s nest nearby. . .
Mrs. R. is Extremely Confident. We are constantly telling our dog (as I suspect many dog/pet owners do), “You’re the best at wagging your tail,” or “You’re the best at running in mud puddles.” One day, we decided to just save time and tell our dog “You’re the best at being the best.” This family joke ultimately evolved into Mrs. R’s rock-solid assuredness.
One other short anecdote – Mrs. R.’s “favorite song” is the sound of a baseball connecting with a bat. Our dog absolutely LOVES baseball—granted, we use Wiffle balls to avoid injury but she could quite literally play baseball all day. She’s a great outfielder.
Mrs. R’s escapes often involve conflicts with human values and codes of behavior – what message did you hope this would give young readers?
I thought that young readers would enjoy the idea of characters who effectively “humor” the humans and their gazillion norms, many of which dogs find ridiculous. From a dog’s perspective, why would anyone leave a perfectly good, rain-drenched sandwich on the sidewalk? It’s ASKING to be eaten!
How did you decide on all the fine details of dog law?
A lot of that stemmed from dinner table conversations with my family about the ins and outs of the dog legal system or what we imagined it could be. We would also take our dog for a walk and “workshop” an idea – what sort of dog behaviors would be a premise for breaking a law in a dog’s world?
Mrs. R. has a lot of self-confidence – but we are invited to laugh at her ego. What lesson would you like readers to learn about self-confidence from this story?
Although self-confidence is important, too much self-confidence can be a problem. Mrs. R. has quite a few. . .blind spots when it comes to her talents. Instead of putting the work in to ensure she could pass her classes and represent Pitter-Patter, Mrs. R. took naps and played, certain that she could handle whatever came her way because, well, she’s Mrs. R! And look what happened—she had a very stressful day, her friends were mad at her, and she almost ruined her career. The takeaway for readers is – self-confidence is not a substitute for hard work and making thoughtful decisions.
Mrs. R. ignores convention to help her friend – her heart is clearly in the right place. Do you have any advice for readers torn between doing what is expected and doing what they think is right?
I would advise every reader to do what they think is right. If you do the right thing when the stakes are low (helping a classmate with a heavy backpack even though it means you are late to class), then doing the right thing will come naturally when readers are older and the stakes are higher.
How do you think a teacher in a classroom might use this chapter book? How could it be used to support classroom discussions about learning, rules, and challenging oneself, for example?
Oh, there’s so many opportunities here!
- Mrs. R. is eager to take on a new challenge but then puts off the responsibilities that come with the challenge, and Pitter-Patter gets very upset with her. What could Mrs. R. have done differently to make sure she could keep the promise she made to Pitter Patter?
- Mrs. R. decides to try law school when she is bored. What do you do when you are feeling bored?
- What are some of the things that Maple Lane does that make it difficult for Mrs. R. to concentrate in class? Why do you think Maple Lane acts this way?
- What does Mrs. R. learn about how to be a good friend?
- Towards the end of the story, Maple Lane helps Mrs. R. with her law school exams. Why do you think Maple Lane decided to help Mrs. R., after being so rude to her?
- What are some of the rules that humans follow that seem silly to dogs?
- Why do you think Mrs. R. calls her family The Kitchen, The Vacuum, Crunchy, and Snicker, instead of regular names?
- What do you think really happens when a dog thinks they are invisible?
- What does Mrs. R. do when she realizes that she has let down Pitter-Patter?
- Why do you think Mrs. R. broke her promise to Popsicle and didn’t let him eat the sidewalk snacks?
- Does Mrs. R. intend to be a bad friend? If not, why did she do some of the things she did?
How difficult was it to write a story from a non-human perspective? What were the challenges, and what did you enjoy?
It was easy to pretend to be a dog lawyer, despite having never been one myself. There were certainly some challenges though – building the dogs’ world, for one. Earlier versions of this story had more content about the family – my initial premise was that the humans would unknowingly “work” for the dogs much more actively than they do in the version of the story that I published. A friend-of-a-friend who had been a children’s book editor graciously read an early draft and steered me more towards a story that emphasized the dogs’ world and made the humans secondary.
What other dog novels can you recommend to readers who love Mrs. R. and her adventures?
I really enjoyed The One and Only Bob, by Katherine Applegate. Readers who read The One and Only Ivan will remember Bob from those stories. Danny DeVito narrated the audiobook to perfection.
Will there be more stories about Mrs. R. and her adventures?
I have a bunch of ideas and a couple of versions of the second book in the works—I’m not yet sure what will make the cut and what I’ll set aside for later stories. Maple Lane may be coming to Mrs. R. for help, albeit grudgingly.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know about Mrs. R. Snugglesworth, Attorney-at-Law, your writing, or yourself?
My goal was to write a story that kids thought was hilarious and adults would enjoy reading (and maybe even find it hilarious too). I started this in the second winter of the pandemic, and after too much doom-scrolling decided that despite everything, it was still okay, and even vital, to laugh. Ergo, I’d try to write a funny book.
It seems to be working!
One reader told me that her second-grader sometimes struggled to find something he wanted to read, and he laughed and laughed when he read Mrs. R. Another reader, who follows @MrsRSnuggles on Twitter, included this in her Amazon review: “As soon as I received the book, I started reading it to my mom who has Alzheimer’s. I think she enjoyed my reading to her because I was laughing so hard.”
About the Book
Written by Amy Flanagan
Illustrated by Jon Davis
Ages 5+ | 90 Pages
Publisher: Whitefox | IBN-13: 9781915036094
Publisher’s Book Summary: Mrs. R Snugglesworth is 70 pounds of low-to-the-ground PRECIOUS. She is the Best at Finding Slightly-Used Sandwiches and the Best at Loving Ham—and now she’s looking for her next big challenge. To her surprise, she finds it at the local Bark Park, when she discovers a passion for the law. Dog law, that is.
In two wags of a tail, she enrolls at Wagsworth Legal Academy, eager to become a lawyer. Turns out, it’s not that easy learning to be the Best at Law School. But when Mrs. R. learns that her friend Pitter-Patter needs help, she can’t wait to take on her first case. Only one small issue: she hasn’t quite finished her law degree. Some dogs might consider this a problem, but not Mrs. R! After all, Pitter-Patter needs a lawyer, and she is ALMOST a lawyer. Which everyone knows is practically as good as being a lawyer, right?
She’ll just juggle her law classes, naps, walks, power naps, chasing tennis balls, snacks, naps, and work on Pitter-Patter’s case at the same time! What could possibly go wrong?
Buy the Book
About the Author
Amy Flanagan is an Instructional Designer and children’s author living with her family in the Chicago suburb of Batavia. She began writing Mrs. R. Snugglesworth, Attorney-at-Law in early 2021 to stay busy during the long pandemic winter. She wanted to create something that would make kids (and adults) laugh out loud. She is already working on the second book in the “Mrs. R.” series. Like you, she wonders what the ‘R’ stands for.
About the Illustrator
Jon Davis is an award-winning freelance illustrator living and working in Cumbria, UK. He always loved drawing as a child, thinking up characters and stories – paints, pencils, felt tips, crayons, anything would do. So he decided to study Illustration at Glyndwr University, Wrexham. He works digitally in Photoshop with a tablet and pen because the ‘undo’ function saves him from the depths of frustration.
Visit him at https://www.jonsmind.com.
For more information about Mrs. R. Snugglesworth, Attorney-at-Law, visit:
This interview—Amy Flanagan Discusses Mrs. R. Snugglesworth, Attorney-at-Law—was conducted between Amy Flanagan and Dr. Jen Harrison. For similar books and articles, follow along with our content tagged with Chapter Books, Dogs, and Humorous Books.
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September 7, 2022 at 12:51PM Bianca Schulze