When Billy Was a Dog
Allen & Unwin, 2019
32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99
Billy loves dogs and he really, really wants a dog. He adores Mrs Banerjee-next-door’s little dog, Fluff, but even though he promises to wash it and walk it, feed it and clean up its messes if he one of his own, his parents are not sure. And so he hatches a plan. If he cannot have a dog, he will be one.
To his parent’s surprise (and embarrassment) he copies all the things he knows that Fluff does, even eating his breakfast from a bowl on the floor, and when his mum and Mrs Banarjee go to the cafe, he waits on the floor alongside Fluff. He even curls up in Fluff’s basket with her and sleeps, until Fluff begins to make funny noises and Mrs Banerjee sends him home. He is confused but…
Many young readers will see themselves in Billy – desperately wanting a dog or a pet of some sort but not getting one. But while many might think that pester-power is the answer, Billy’s novel solution offers the foundation for an interesting story that will appeal widely. Being a pet-owner requires a lot of responsibility as many advertisement from places like the RSPCA remind us particularly around Christmas time, but there could be discussion about whether Billy’s solution is actually the best one. How else could he have shown that he was mature enough to understand what is involved and that he is responsible enough to take it seriously?
Being responsible for a pet is a huge undertaking but there are many other things that young readers want to do or have that are beyond the realm of their maturity. So this story opens up the pathway for discussions about those sorts of things and the best responses that could become strategies. With Book Week rapidly approaching and many schools holding book fairs, this is a great way to open up conversations about how students might be able to purchase what they want without the usual whingeing and moaning and tantrum throwing!