Review Blog

Jul 14 2016

The detective dog by Julia Donaldson

cover image

Ill. by Sara Ogilvie. MacMillan Children's books, 2016. ISBN 9781509801596
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Dogs. Detection. School. Books. Libraries. Read aloud. I love books about books, stories that tell of people sharing books, of reading books, of borrowing books. Well, this one is someone stealing books! But it all ends happily, so don't fret.
Nell's story is told in rhyming stanzas, a tale of a dog who is born to be a detective, her nose sniffing out the places where all sorts of things lie hidden: socks, honey, a lost book, a spider in the bath, a lost ball. And she loves going to school to hear the children read, but one day when they come to school, the library has been ransacked and all the books are gone. Catastrophe! But Detective Nell to the rescue. She picks up the scent and follows it, leading the class trailing out behind her. They traverse roads and gardens, past the zoo and the take-away shop and into a wood. Here they run through a very overgrown garden and push open the messy gate. Behind the gate sits the culprit, a man with a stack of books, his nose buried in one of them. He is most apologetic, promising that he intended to return them after they had been read, and he helps the children take them all back to school. A happy relationship is established as the children show the man how to open a library account and borrow as many books as he wants.
The infectious illustrations swirl with colour and life moving quickly across the pages, inviting the readers to follow the action. The dog, Nell, is a wonderful creation, one every child would love to have, and the way Nell is depicted with her nose in everything about will have resonance with most dog owners. This is a charming homage to pets and libraries, to frazzled teachers, to those sharing books, to those who are helped in their quest to find books, and of course to skillful dogs and accommodating children. A real treat.
Fran Knight

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