Okay, so the whole point of this blog was to explore themes in picture books and dogs don’t really count as a theme… However, as I lost my own little dog, Bean, to cancer in February, I figure you can cut me some slack. Bean was my best friend, cuddle buddy and writing companion. You can read more about him here. He was also the inspiration for my debut picture book, The Bum That Barked. It seems fitting tribute, to explore some of my favourite doggy stories and to kick off with Bean’s book.
The Bum That Barked. By Elisa Peacock. Illustrated Rowena Aitken
It feels a bit weird reviewing your own work, so perhaps I will just tell you a little about how the story came to be. While walking on one of our favourite routes, we crossed the little stream where I often stopped to sit, while Bean paddled in the water.
Bean did quite a mammoth (insert your favourite descriptive euphemism here) fart! The look of surprise on his face was a study. He was clearly unaware that he had produced said sound and my mind immediately clicked into story mode. What if Bean’s bum could talk, what if it sang? What if it had its own agenda and wanted to be famous! How would that work?
There and then the story was born. I had written quite a few picture books by this point but had yet to be accepted for publication. It was early days in my writing career and this was the first book that just seemed to, ‘fall out.’ I had so much fun writing it and couldn’t believe my luck when the lovely folk at Tiny Tree were keen to publish. At last a dream come true and all thanks to my wonder dog, Bean.
The Bum That Barked is a bonkers book and has been well received by all the children I have been lucky enough to share it with. I never wrote it with a theme in mind but during the writing process the message emerged; be proud of who you are and value those things that make you unique. Giggles are guaranteed and it’s great fun to work with on school visits. @rowenaaitkens illustrations are wonderful and I will always be grateful for her helping me conceptualize a rather crazy main character! Check out the theme tune here to get a window into the wacky world of -The Bum That Barked!
Another beautiful story by picture book maestro Rob Biddulph. I love the way this story is written from the dog’s perspective – Edward Pugglesworth, or ‘Teddy’ for short. It tells the story of the day Teddy loses his human, Dave, in the park. Distracted by squirrels, Teddy pulls too hard on the lead and by the time the squirrel chase is over, he has lost his human…
Teddy has heard tales of a troll that lives in a shed in the woods. It gobbles dogs with its eating machine. Could Teddy’s human have fallen foul of this villain? Teddy bravely enters the cabin in search of Dave. In the darkness, he is confronted by a pair of scary, green eyes. Teddy turns tail and runs, only to be met by a dead end – the park’s perimeter fence! The troll catches him up. He grabs hold of Teddy and gives him an unexpected… CUDDLE!
Bob’s beautiful pictures reveal that this is in fact the park warden, riding not an eating machine but his warden’s wagon! I can honestly say I didn’t see this skilfully executed plot twist coming. I expected the troll to be helpful, as we all love playing with the idea of traditional villains but I didn’t get any inkling that this was going to be the park warden’s cabin. Genius writing from Bob as ever and packed full of gorgeous pictures of dogs. If you or your little ones are looking for dog drawing inspiration and of course a rip roaring doggy adventure, look no further. If you want to have a go at drawing Teddy, because who doesn’t love a pug, follow this link. Dog Gone also contains the important message, that sometimes you can find kindness in the most unexpected places.
Babette Cole is my hero. It was a very sad day for storytelling when she passed in 2017. One of those enviable people, able to both illustrate and write her own work. I fell in love with her books after studying her work during teacher training, (possibly my favourite half term of learning ever!) I have read this book so many times, it feels like an old friend. First published in 1994 and still relevant today; Doctor Dog gives advice about washing hands to help control germs. It also provides humorous tips on how to avoid the spread of thread worms; ‘Never scratch your bum and suck your thumb!’ This book is so much fun and I can’t help wondering if The Bum That Barked was in some way subliminally inspired by Babette’s book. In The Bum That Barked, one spread is dedicated to a huge fart. In Doctor Dog, grandfather’s habit of mixing beans and beer, results in a fart that blows the roof off their house!
story is about a family, the Gumboyles. A motley and rather selfish bunch, who don’t take their health very seriously. When their dog, who is a doctor, goes off to give a lecture in Brazil; they call him back, to diagnose and treat their various maladies.
The story comes to its climax when Dr Dog himself is diagnosed with stress, a result of all the extra work his family have caused him. The last spread shows him relaxing on the beach…Unfortunately, the Gumboyles follow him. Oh dear!
Funny and educational, I have used this story to enrich the teaching of PSHE sessions about personal health and hygiene. It elicits enthusiastic discussion about the issues tackled; these include smoking, nits, excessive drinking and those wiggly, bottom worms mentioned earlier!
If you have never read it, grab a copy today and check out Babette’s back catalogue of wonderful books. These include the classics, Prince Cinders and Princess Smartypants, Tarzanna, Hair In Funny Places, Mummy laid An Egg! And Truelove. I could go on AND on…
I was tempted to include some more of my personal favourite dog stories here; this being a tribute to Bean, I probably could have justified it too! But focussing on my original intention with this blog, e.g. – to increase my repertoire and discover new stories – I stumbled across this book by an author I had never heard of. Well, I say I had never heard of him but when I started looking at his titles, I did recognise a few. The Yoga Ogre, being one of them. I loved this book but hadn’t noted its author.
This is a deliciously silly book, about a very fancy dog party. So swish is the venue, that it requires you to leave your bottom at the door!
Through a series of mishaps, the hall where the event is being held catches fire. Every dog runs for their life, ( no one is hurt – phew!) but in the chaos, when the dogs collect their bottoms on the way out, they all get mixed up. From that day to this, every time a dog greets another, it smells its bottom, hoping it might finally be reunited with its lost behind.
A few more recommendations.
Harry The Dirty Dog by Gene Zion. This book had to get a mention, as it is the first picture book I remember reading with my mum.
The Very Very Very long dog by Julia Patton.
Some Dogs Do by Jez Alborough.
Dogs Don’t Do Ballet by Anna Kemp. Illustrated by Sara Ogilvie.
Dogger by Shirley Hughes. Another golden oldie but how can you write a list of doggy picture books without mentioning Dogger!