Smarty Pup 2: JJ and the Giant Panther
Allen & Unwin, 2023
160pp., pbk., RRP $A15.99
Life was a little ordinary for Lily for a while, particularly as she had lost her mum, but things changed when her Dad decided they could be a family of three again by getting a dog – something both Lily and her mum had wanted for ages.
At the animal shelter, Lily chose JJ, who was kind of clumsy, but something about his smiley face made her really happy inside. They changed even more when Lily discovered that JJ could talk and is actually super smart. He can speak a number of languages, and knows the answers to maths and geography questions .
In this second episode of this series, Lily’s teacher, Mr Hosking, agrees that Lily can take JJ to the school camp at Camp Pineapple. Everyone is having fun until glowing eyes start appearing in the shadows. Could it be the legendary Giant Panther?
Anh Do is one of Australia’s most popular and prolific authors, and this new series is somewhat of a cross between a picture book and a novel, but not a graphic novel per se. Told by Lily herself , highly illustrated in colour with conversations in speech bubbles and different fonts, it is an ideal stepping stone between basal, instructional readers and the novels newly independent readers are aspiring to. The story is grounded in the familiar situation of going to school camp and the characters are relatable, although of course there is the usual Anh Do twist. Reading a popular author loved by older peers and siblings is an added bonus, as well as enticing them to try other series he has written!