We are a nation of animal lovers! Yes, and I’m convinced that introducing children to pet ownership is a hugely enriching and educational thing from an emotional intelligence perspective. Teaching children to care about another creature, empathise and communicate with an animal that can’t express its emotions, wants and needs in the same way we do. I have been quite desperate to own a dog for quite some time, to the point that I’m now having regular dreams about it. So Danny and the Dream Dog had instant appeal to me! Written by Fiona Barker, illustrated by Howard Gray and published by Tiny Tree Books this story is a celebration of mans’ best friend, but it’s also much more than that.
I was so thrilled when I heard Fiona had a book out as one of the loveliest people, but also someone with a great wit and fab way with words I knew this would be good, and it is! Danny, like so many children, wants a dog, so much so (like me) he dreams of it, the perfect type to be his best friend. But his Mum says no, and we’re already onto an important point. She’s out at work all day and a dog just isn’t practical for them as a family. This is such a common situation and one which can be difficult for children to accept and understand. It’s explained really nicely here.
When an elderly lady moves in next door, unable to walk her dog, they enlist the help of dog lover Danny to help out. At first he’s so disappointed that Maximus the dog isn’t quite what he expected, he behaves oddly, smells when we gets wet and is difficult to control. But the more Danny walks Maximus the more his life is improved. He makes new friends on his walks with him, and he develops a real love and fondness for the friendly little dog and soon realises that sharing a dog with his neighbour and also being able to help someone in need at the same time is just as good as having his own dog.
This is such a delightful story with a really important message. It’s written beautifully by Fiona, with a gentle flow and easy to understand for young children without being patronising to older readers. All the characters are well defined and incredibly appealing. Fundamentally it has a very real and important story to tell about the need to support less able dog owners with walking responsibilities to enable them to stay with their best friends, as at the back of the book are details of an organisation called The Cinnamon Trust. They link up people who are unable to walk their dogs with volunteers and dog lovers to ensure their pets are well looked after whilst being able to remain in their familiar and much loved homes. It’s a fantastic and incredibly lovely idea.
And then, of course, we have those illustrations (see below). Howard Gray seems to capture the essence of dogs in the most perfect way. Maximus the star of the story is a gorgeous portly little terrier with bags of character. And the real joy is at the very end of the story when we’re greeted with an illustration of a gorgeous pile of dogs all running together, tongues lolling happily, each with their own style and brilliantly illustrated. Danny, his Mum and Mrs Owen are all also delightfully adorable. Howard has injected so much animation and personality into his artwork. He and Fiona are the dream team!
Danny and the Dream Dog is a smiley book. It’s feel good, it’s entertaining, it’s a story children will just love, yet it has a really really important message to pass on and introduces us to an organisation doing brilliant things. This is a papery bundle of utter dog-filled loveliness and I adore it.
I’m now thrilled to welcome onto the blog Fiona to share with us her feelings when she saw Howard’s illustrations to her words for the first time:
For you Book Monsters I thought I would share with you some of the joy that
I experienced every time I received a pdf from illustrator Howard Gray
while he was working on Danny. Like many inexperienced writers, I was quite
prescriptive with illustration notes. Howard was very patient about it and
didn’t shout at me or anything. He incorporated my requests but has added
so much depth himself. Things I never even thought about. It was completely
thrilling to receive each spread and see what he had done so I will share
some of my favourites.
Mrs Owen arrives and Danny’s mum meets her for
the first time. We get little visual clues that Mrs Owen has a dog but we
don’t see him. There are footprints and a dog basket and bowl (and, just as
a side issue, look at the dirt on the van!). And Mrs Owen’s slippers are
just awesome. In the second half, Howard has created a whole backstory for
Mrs Owen in the photos on the wall behind her. Max is there too if you can
spot him sniffing for biscuits. And I totally want a tea-cosy like that!
In this later spread, Max is causing havoc at the
park. There’s a Park Run going on because I love what they do (we got
special permission to use the logo) but my favourite character here is the
squirrel. His expression is brilliant and he pops up again later on.
And finally here is a sneak peek of the
endpapers. Something for everyone there I hope. I’ll let you guess which
one has stolen my heart!
The wonderful Danny and the Dream Dog is out now and available from all good book shops and libraries.
To find out more about the loveliest of authors please visit Fiona’s website here:
The incredibly talented illustrator Howard Gray can be found here:
And you can see more booky delights from Tiny Tree Books here:
Thank you to Tiny Tree books for sending me a copy of this book and thank you for reading this rather woofy Book Monster review.