Review Blog

Apr 25 2010

It's a dog's life by Michael Morpurgo

cover image

Ill. by Patrick Benson. Egmont, 2010. ISBN 97814052133370.
(Age 3-7) Recommended. Russ, the sheepdog is very busy. He has to get the cows in and have them ready for milking. After he laps up his milk reward he goes up to the kitchen where he has his breakfast before he accompanies Lula to the end of the lane. She always likes a cuddle before the school bus comes, and confides in Russ that all she wants for her birthday is a horse. Russ wonders 'what's so great about a horse?' and when Lula does get one, is afraid that she will love it more than him.
Michael Morpugo has vividly told the story of an active working sheepdog's day on a busy farm. Russ, the dog, is the narrator and he describes all the work that he does. What brings the narration alive are the humorous little comments about the farmer and the animals that he is herding as well as the pranks that Russ gets up to with Smarty, his friend from across the valley. The reader not only gets a good idea of what happens on a farm but is drawn into the anxiety that Russ feels when he thinks that he might be replaced in Lula's affections by the horse she gets for her birthday.
Patrick Benson's water colour illustrations bring both Russ and the country side alive. Close examination shows lots of subtle humour in the portrayal of farm life. I particularly liked the illustration of Russ slinking after the sheep as they trot along the lane and chasing the crows out of the cornfield.
It's a dog's life would be a very good book to use in a unit of work about farm life or animals. It could also lead to discussions about new members being introduced into a family group, feelings of jealousy and being left out and the wonderful power of love.
Pat Pledger

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