Penguin Viking 2016
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Albert is one of those dogs – a lovable golden labrador puppy with a voracious appetite for everything, regardless of whether it is ‘official’ dog food or not. Each day, when no one is around he finds something that grabs his attention and as is the manner of dogs, explores it by eating it. Taste is not an issue – pink ribbons, red flags, white cords, green swim goggles, a black bike helmet – they are all part of Albert’s diet, much to the family’s frustration and threats. Until on Saturday he eats something dogs should NEVER eat – chocolate!
As they sit at the vet hoping he will pull through, the family begin to realise what Albert means to them and regret their hasty comments. But whether Albert pulls through and whether he learns his lesson is an ending for the reader to discover…
This is a captivating story that is so full of riches, not the least of which is how Albert would feel if he were human and all he heard were negative remarks. Because each double spread only shows the times when Albert’s appetite has got him into trouble you wonder if that is the only time this busy family with their pilates, ballet, swimming, school, bike-riding and so on notice him. Is he doing this stuff for the attention he craves? Do we only notice and attend to the things our children,our students or our pets do wrong, rather than acknowledging the 99% of the time they bring us love and joy? are we so busy being busy that we forget why we had the children or got the pet in the first place? Do we only stop to reflect when there is a crisis? Hmmm…
Davina Bell’s text is perfect for engaging the young reader in early-reading behaviours. It has a repetitive refrain that encourages the child to join in (and consolidate their knowledge of the days of the week) and Sara Acton’s pictures invite prediction of not only what Albert will eat but how that will impact on the ‘victim’. Focusing on the essential storyline with white space instead of extraneous detail, little people will be able to read this to themselves easily, able to work out what happens as they turn each page – but hearing the words will add so much more to the experience that they will want it over and over. It will move from first-read to familiar to favourite very quickly. It is a cumulative story so each episode leads into the next in a way that is really cohesive so there is also the opportunity to talk about cause and effect. If you leave your swimming goggles where Albert can eat them, how will you cope at swimming the next day?
But mostly this is a story of the unconditional love we have for our pets and readers, adult and child, will be able to put themselves into the story sparking memories that can be shared and drawn. . Maybe everyone and everything will get an extra hug today.
Miss 5 is going through a ‘dog phase’ and this is one she is going to adore.