Friday 7 July 2017

ReadItDaddy's Second Picture Book of the Week - Week Ending 7th July 2017 - "Dogger (40th Anniversary Edition)" by Shirley Hughes (Bodley Head)

Oh my, has it really been 40 years since this brilliant classic first arrived on bookshelves? Our Second Picture Book of the Week is the sublime "Dogger" by Shirley Hughes...
Way way back in the mists of time I remember 1977 as being the year I moved from London to Oxford. I remember the new school having one of the most amazing school libraries I'd ever seen, and I also remember that year being the first time I encountered this book.

Back then, as a slightly precocious 9 year old I was always more interested in the illustrations than the words when it came to picture books. I'd moved on to chapter books, but there was just something about Shirley Hughes' illustrative style that just dragged me in.

As with all good things, rumour quickly spread around the school about this book and it became almost impossible to check it out from the library. Why? Well, I'd like to think that it's because this is one of those stories that just gets you 'right there' but it was mostly because of this single page spread...

Dalek Kid. What a hero!!
Yes, Dogger became known as "The one with that kid dressed as a Dalek" in it, to a whole generation of Doctor Who obsessed kids (like me) who were growing up in the golden era of Tom Baker playing the role.

We'll come back to that spread in a moment but if you've never encountered this book before it's time for an introduction.

"Dogger" is the story of a little boy called Dave, and his most beloved cuddly toy. Dogger is a little stuffed dog. Nothing special really, but Dave loves Dogger more than anything in the world.

One day, while distracted by an ice cream (yeah, we've all been there, right?) Dave loses Dogger! CATASTROPHE! As any parent will tell you, when a child loses their favourite toy that's pretty much it - their world comes crashing down and nothing will console them (not even Dave's lovely sister, who is pretty much the real hero of this story - when she offers Dave one of her multitude of teddies as a consolation). No matter how much everyone searches, Dogger just can't be found. Oh no!

It's the day of the school Summer Fayre, and to everyone's surprise Dogger is there on a used toy stall. But he costs 5p and Dave only has 3p.

By the time Dave manages to find one of his family and drag them back to the stall, another little girl has bought Dogger and no amount of pleading will get her to give up her new toy...until, that is, Dave's sister steps in with a fantastic idea...

When we sit down to review books, sometimes it's hard to just get across how beloved books like this are, what makes them special, why they have stood the test of time. I mean even when you get beyond Shirley's amazing skill as a storyteller, her illustrative talents (which are just...jaw dropping quite frankly), it's the little touches she adds to her books that just keep you coming back. Dalek Kid - for sure, but that whole spread, doing the diversity in books thing AEONS ahead of anyone else, quite obviously because Shirley thinks that it's important that kids see themselves in books.

There are so many subtle currents to this story, teaching kids about the importance of love (not just Dave's love for Dogger, but sibling love too as his sister basically saves the day!) Each character, even the peripheral ones, feels like someone you might know.

The true sign of a classic book is that it stays with you, way into adulthood. I remember this being one of those books I was absolutely determined to share with Charlotte as soon as I could - though alas that was before we started this blog, so it's lovely to be able to sit down with the luxurious new versions (both the fantastic new hardback version, and the paperback version with a story CD read by wonderful Olivia Coleman) and pay it due homage.

Shirley and the real Dogger! 

Many, many people will list picture books that you positively must own (whether you've got kids or not), and this wonderful book definitely belongs on that list.

Charlotte's favourite bit: Dave sharing his ice cream with his dribbly little brother.

Daddy's favourite bit: As already mentioned, that fancy dress spread. Just utterly perfect in every way, as is this book!

(Kindly supplied for review)

"Dogger" by Shirley Hughes is out now, published by Bodley Head.