In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, October 25, 2010


Dear Aunt Debbie,

Like you and Rachel, I adore Dogger.  You sent it to us last year, and it quickly became a household favorite.  We've gotten a couple of other Shirley Hughes books out of the library: Alfie's Feet, which you mentioned in your last post, and  Alfie and the Birthday Surprise, which is very good at dealing with the death of Alfie's neighbors' beloved cat (though the jacket copy didn't prepare me for what was going to happen inside.  Surprise!)  But Dogger is the best.

It's the story of Dave, a little boy who has a stuffed dog named Dogger, which he loves to pieces.  One afternoon, on the way home from picking up his big sister Bella at school, Dave somehow loses Dogger.  There are a wonderful few pages of the household search for Dogger (a scene familiar to all parents, I'd wager):

"But Dogger was quite lost."  Dave is bereft.  The next day, the family goes to the School Summer Fair (lots of great, highly-detailed pictures of fair activities: a costume parade, different kinds of races and games).  Bella wins both a three-legged race and a raffle, and gets a giant stuffed bear.  As Dave pouts around, he discovers Dogger on a toy sale table, with a price tag on him.  Horrors!  He doesn't have the money to buy Dogger back, and can't get the lady's attention, and can't find his parents, and sees another little girl come to buy Dogger, and it seems for a few pages that Dogger will be irretrievably lost, but Bella reunites them in a moment of selflessness.

Hughes's writing is beautifully understated.  As you say, her characters behave well in a way that feels totally natural: no one is being taught a lesson in these books, but there is real goodness here, and a careful attention to what is most important to small children.  And there is the lovely British-accented text:

Bella ran up with her satchel flying.
"Mum, can we have an ice cream?"
Mum gave her the money for two cones.  Joe didn't have a whole ice-cream to himself because he was too dribbly.

I really need to find myself more Alfie books too, don't I?

Love, Annie


  1. we adore fact Shirley Hughes books are all on our favourites list, something about the way the stories really reflect real life has always been very appealing to my daughter, from the youngest age.
    My other fav of hers is Out and About

  2. Another question about the "translation" of British books to American English. Have they done the same with Julia Donaldson's books, if you happen to know?

  3. Can I say that story's adorable? That story's adorable. I need to revisit picture books more often; just a few days ago, I stumbled on Eric Carle's wikipedia page, and it totally brought back great memories of The Little Hungry Caterpillar. (I loved the holes in the middle of the pages.)

    On a totally unrelated note, the book I had mentioned earlier today is called Rot & Ruin, and it's by Jonathan Maberry. It's similar to The Hunger Games in that it's post-apocalyptic and is about self-discovery (though this seems to be more "coming of age" than The Hunger Games), but it also happens to feature zombies and(sort of) samurai. :)