Hedgehog the Wonder Dog
Ford Street, 2023
32pp., pbk., RRP $A17.95
Each day of the week, Hedgehog has a routine he follows with his owner Jo – going to the cafe, the dog park, the beach and even just staying at home on Thursdays. Some people think he is a strange-looking dog, all rough and hairy and sometimes smelling of shorebird poop. But there is more to Hedgehog than meets the eye and only Sam can see this.
Meanwhile, in a parallel world, Sam also has a routine – drawing pictures, playing cards, going outside if it’s fine, having tests… all the while counting down the sleeps till Friday. Because Fridays are the best days – that’s when Hedgehog comes to visit. Sometimes it’s for cuddles and stories from Jo, but sometimes it’s just for cuddles and comforts as Sam is topped up with Superpower Juice. No matter how weird or strange Hedgehog might seem to others, to Sam he has superpowers too, and right now that’s what Sam needs.
In this heart-warming, beautifully illustrated story that treads new ground in children’s picture books, exploring the connection between a child in hospital receiving treatment for cancer and a little dog whose owner brings him to visit every Friday and celebrating the healing powers that therapy dogs like Hedgehog can offer.
Even though Sam’s surroundings and illness are not explicitly stated, close attention to the illustrations beginning with Sam wearing a beanie inside while drawing will offer clues and cues that there is something special happening – sadly, something that will resonate with many whose lives have been touched by cancer. Even though the situation is one we would wish that no child has to encounter, nevertheless there are touches of humour throughout that lighten the mood, such as Hedgehog rolling in the bird poop, Sam receiving treatment at the Superpower Charging Station, and just Hedgehog’s cheerful appearance and expression. While teaching notes allow for the literary aspects of the book to be examined, the power in this book is the hope and joy that shines through the trauma and sadness.
Something different to read and share but something essential and illuminating.