It's National Dog Day, so to celebrate here are our
five favourite canine picturebooks, all previously reviewed on
Dog Loves Books by Louise Yates, published by Red Fox
A few years ago, our toddler's grandparents opened a small antiquarian bookshop. Many of her Granny and Grampa's bookselling joys (and occasional travails) are beautifully reflected in this celebration of reading and imagination by Louise Yates.
At the start of Dog Loves Books, we meet a small canine bibliophile as he prepares for the Grand Opening of his new bookshop. When the initial public reception is less than he'd hoped for, a cup of tea and a good read takes him away from his temporary disappointment to the lands of dinosaurs, kangaroos and space travel.
When at last a real customer arrives, he knows just the book to recommend - the mark of a true booklover - for, as we learn on the final page, the one thing dog loves more than books is his love of sharing them.
Louise Yates' distinctive, charming and expressive characters bring to life this well-told story. Dog Loves Books is one of our favourite reads, and a perfect choice any time of the day.
Hickory Dickory Dog by Alison Murray, published by Orchard Books
As our daughter gets older, she takes an increasing interest in the concept of time: The pattern of the day, the appearance of the moon, ideas of tomorrow and yesterday. Part of her intrigue has been in relation to clocks, asking us what they are for and how they work. Recently, we discovered an effective method for indicating to her that it's time to go upstairs for sleep, asking her "what's the time on the clock", to which, so far at least, her answer has been: "Bedtime!"
The traditional children's verse that starts 'Hickory Dickory Dock' was first recorded in 'Tommy Thumb's Pretty Song-Book', an anthology of English-language nursery rhymes published in 1744. In Alison Murray's playful adaptation, we accompany Zac and his dog Rufus on a sunny Autumn day, first at home then at school.
As well as its two main protagonists, 'time' features throughout the book. Scenes are cleverly announced by a clock, striking the next hour of the day, accompanied by a rhyme to match: "Hickory, lickery, lunch. Some yummy crumbs to munch. The clock strikes noon, Zac's dropped his spoon! Hickory, lickery, lunch."
Their day is packed with activity: Getting dressed and ready to go; dancing, painting and gardening at school; returning home for bathtime and storytime, before snuggling down to sleep.
Oh No, George! By Chris Haughton, published by Walker Books
We think this may have been the first book that made us, and our toddler, laugh out loud at the same time. Chris Haughton's unmistakable, bold and brilliant illustrations are combined with perfectly timed dead-pan humour and superb character expression in Oh No, George!, the tale of a dog trying so very hard to make amends for instinctive and opportunistic mischief.
After coming home to find that George has been digging soil and eating cake, his superbly-named owner Harris is placated by the offer of George's favourite toy. They set off for a walk, which proves to be filled with temptations. George refrains from more trouble and stays on his best behaviour:
"George doesn't even try to chase Cat. Even Cat is a bit surprised". The look on Cat's face, of simultaneous relief and disappointment, is one of the best expressions I've come across in picture books to date. Can George resist a final Siren-like pull, presented by his favourite thing in life, a bin full of rubbish?
With intermittent opportunities to say "Oh No, George!", this has become a frequent bedtime treat.
Smelly Louie by Catherine Rayner, published by Macmillan Children's
Our older daughter, who is nearly three, is a big fan of baths. She enjoys creating bubble beards and has mastered the bubble clap - taking a large clump of foam and clapping her hands together to create a flurry of bubble snow.
Catherine Rayner's Louie does not like bubbles, and he detests baths. Worst of all is "The Noise" - that awful sound of running water - and most of all, that most hated aroma: "roses and apple blossom!" Why? Because Louie is a dog who has worked hard to finesse his unique stink, and he doesn't like to give it up!
We meet Louie just after he's had a bath, mourning the loss of his radiantly rotten aroma. He is determined to regain his scent - seeking out its key ingredients, with a little help from a filthy fox and some whiffy flies. Along the way, he befriends an old boot, delights in dustbins and rolls in sticky sludge. Something is missing, though...Of course! The pongy pond!
We share in his delight as Louie reclaims his special smell and marches proudly home. We feel his pride as the impressed fox looks upon him. And we share his horror on hearing "the noise" and on smelling that terrible, revolting, perfumed smell and the call "Louie, come here". "Surely, it couldn't be?"
A beautiful book with a most lovable lead, Smelly Louie is a family favourite, full of fun, humour and brimming with colour and life. An aromatic treat for all the senses.
Time for Bed, Fred! by Yasmeen Ismail, published by Bloomsbury
This is a book filled with fun, with wonderful illustration and strong, clear language that is perfectly suited to be read from the earliest months and still enjoyed years later.
The playful, mischievous and loyal Fred is one of our daughter's favourite characters from her picturebook collection. It's a great option for helping young toddlers who are just starting to talk to learn about emphasis and tone - "That's not your bed, Fred. That's my bed".
It's a book that also helped our toddler to develop an understanding of the bedtime routine and that, after a day of digging soil, chasing cats, having a bubble bath, and getting cosy, it's time to settle down in your own bed for a lovely night's sleep.
On turning to the final page, our toddler always joins us in saying "night night" to Fred and wishing him sweet dreams.