A Boy, His Dog and the Sea
Walker Books, 2023
32pp., hbk., RRP $A27.99
Danny is bored. He would have liked to have been playing with his brother Mick but he’s off with his mates so, instead, he takes his dog Scruff for a walk on the beach. Even though Danny thinks it’s a vast, boring nothingness, especially on a cool wintry day. Scruff loves it and it’s not too long before they are having a game of fetch as Scruff continually chases a stick into the water and brings it back. But it’s when they see a crowd of people shouting and laughing and waving to someone in the water, that Danny’s afternoon takes a remarkable turn…
As usual, master storyteller Browne offers a visual feast as he combines fairly straight-forward text with his rich illustrations and, just as Danny’ mother suggests he use his eyes closely because “you never know what you might see”, so too should the reader. But, for me, as much as I love the sea in all its changing moods and colours, and the treasures found along its shore, it is the dedication that underpins this story. “In loving memory of my big brother Michael” suggests there is a poignant undertone of loss and longing that there could have been a different ending to his brother’s real-life story and this is echoed in the muted palette and flat, almost featureless seascape with just the odd break on the horizon.
So, as well as offering young readers the opportunity to think about what Danny’s mother suggests about finding hidden treasures and sharing their stories of seaside adventures, it is also an opportunity to think about friends and things lost forever and the emotions attached to this. Given this is the third book about loss and grief that I have read and reviewed in the last three days, perhaps I am overthinking what might seem a simple story but my experience of Browne’s writing is that like, the beach, there are always hidden treasures to discover. You just have to look.