A Different Dog by Paul Jennings. Pub. Allen & Unwin, 2017.
Fans of Paul Jennings will not be disappointed in this long short story. Just over 80 pages of writing that will keep you on edge and keep you guessing to the end.
The boy who narrates the story is known only as the boy. He never speaks but once owned a dog called Deefer whose fate is crucial to the story. The boy lives with his mother and they are very poor but both want to break that poverty thing.
Although the boy never talks you know what he is thinking. He has no friends and is harangued at school but an adventure in which a vehicle leaves the road and kills the owner leaving another dog, is to change the boy’s life. Read it and see how.
The illustrations by Geoff Kelly in black and white pen are a critical part of this story
Superbly constructed by a master storyteller for reluctant readers of intermediate and secondary school age.
Pushing boundaries has always been a characteristic of Eoin Colfer’s writing now he has an accomplice in superb illustrator Oliver Jeffers who pushed his own boundaries with the picture book The Day the Crayons quit.
Imagine if two lonely children, both with imaginary friends meet and become friends and their imaginary friends like each other too and also become friends. But first the two children Sam and Sammi have to find that they no longer need imaginary friends and the imaginary friends Fred and Frieda need to know that they are not going to disappear as they have before but can be imaginary friends together.
Put this all together with illustrations that show the lonely children in black ink drawings and the imaginary couple in shades of blue and yellow and you have a recipe for an outstanding picture book for early readers and for children who are lonely need hope and have an imagination.
A great book made out of genius.
I have just read this to a class of New Entrants and passed round the cuddly toy kiwi that comes with it. They liked the story and I had to read it to them again. The toy kiwi was fought over but I got it back.
Loneliness is an emotion that we all have felt and it can unlock a number of other emotions that are best kept in the cupboard. Kiwi wants a friend so he goes looking. He strikes out with a penguin, a kea, a tui. and a thrush but comes up trumps with a baby moa who tells him what a lovely bird he really is. Nice ending. The Moa may test a few.
Illustrations by Cheryl Smith are life like and display the New Zealand environment. Cheryl captures the essence of loneliness in Pee Wee and of the other birds. The text is repetitive when it needs to be and the rhyme is not forced.
With the juniors I read it to this morning it is a winner. Check it out for yourself. Facts about the kiwi are at the back of the book.