Review Blog

Feb 06 2017

Gus dog goes to work by Rachel Flynn

cover image

Ill. by Craig Smith. Working Title Press, 2017. ISBN 9781921504884
(Age: 5+) Highly recommended. Dogs. Sheep dogs. Australian outback. Farms. When Gus the sheep dog wakes each day ready for work, his man, Tom, comes out and gives him his breakfast, Working Dog Formula, and then he gets into the back of the ute and the two go to work. Gus knows a few words along with Tom, gidday, getup, getdown, getoutovit, come'ere and so on. But one day there is no Tom, and so no breakfast and no ute. So Gus goes off to look for his work. He comes across a group of kids playing football and joins in until the teacher spies him and yells, getoutovit. He recognises this word and scampers off. Then he spies some chooks and rounds them up until a woman rushes out of the house and yells at him to getoutovit. Hungry, he knocks over a wheelie bin only to have the owner tell him to getoutoovit. After rolling in something dead that he thinks is pleasant he herds a mob of sheep until the owner comes and yells at him to getoutivit, but also adds the word gohome. He would love to but has no idea of where it is. Spying an old ute he jumps into the back of it, and there he is found by Tom.
The story is simply elegant with its repetition and fondness for Australian slang words. Readers will follow Gus' story with much interest, and peruse the illustrations with glee. The humour is infectious, and readers will love following Gus' antics as he struggles to do his work without Tom. They will almost smell Gus as he rolls on the dead animal, and shake with him as he shakes himself off.
I love the endpapers with the views of the country settlement and can see readers absolutely engrossed with the detail Smith includes.
This charming book, full of wit is very Australian, with its emphasis on the contractions used in the text, the background lovingly portrayed by Craig Smith, the views of the houses and paddocks of sheep, abandoned utes, crows and galahs. Readers will love reading of Gus and wonder how he will be rescued by his man, after he wanders off by himself. They will learn the basics of looking after a dog and the responsibilities that come with ownership. Readers will love reading this out loud with its repetition and rhythmic language, while Smith's illustrations provide a perfect venue for talking about what is recognisable and what is different for children who live in the bush.
Fran Knight

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