Review Blog

Aug 07 2015

Bob the railway dog by Corinne Fenton

cover image

Ill. by Andrew McLean. Black Dog Books, 2015. ISBN 9781922179890
(Age: 4-adult) Highly recommended. Dogs, Loyalty, Independence, Steam trains, Railways, Historical story, Nineteenth century. Transport. Living in Peterborough for twenty years, it was impossible not to hear the story of Bob the railway dog, and to see it now memorialised in several books, a statue in the main street of the town, with an information board in Terowie where it was known as Terowie Bob, is wonderful.
Several years ago a book was published about the animal, (The Railway Dog by Olwyn Parker) and now a picture book adds another level of interest. And of course there is a Facebook page for people to add photos of themselves with the statue in Peterborough.
This picture book takes the reader into the reasons for the railways to exist in the outback regions of South Australia, and throughout the story the impact of the railways on small communities is neatly observed, while readers will have an overview of the size of Australia and the distances travelled by the dog.
At Carrieton Station in 1884, a train carrying a load of dogs destined for the cattlemen in the north of the state, arrived and one dog piqued the interest of the guard, Ferry.
He took the dog, naming him Bob, and soon they travelled together on the trains in the Mid North. But when the intercolonial between Adelaide and Melbourne was opened, he climbed aboard. Several stories of Bob travelling even further were known, but he was certainly well known on the trains around South Australia.
This delightful story of Bob will melt the hearts of the readers and McLean's wonderful illustrations add to the development of the tale. His watercolour, charcoal and black pen illustrations bring the last part of the nineteenth century to life, as we see the sparse landscapes of the mid north of South Australia, the growing wealth of the cities, the detail of the stations now closed, the finely observed porters' rooms, and the steam trains chugging through the saltbush. Text and illustration create a beautiful picture book evocative of times past, but extolling the virtues of independence and loyalty.
Fran Knight

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