Review Blog

Jun 07 2019

When Billy was a dog by Kirsty Murray

cover image

Illus. by Karen Blair. Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760631826.
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Themes: Dogs, Responsibility, Perseverance, Family, Birth. Billy would love to have a dog. He visits Mrs Banerjee next door to play with her dog, Fluff, but when he raises the issue with Mum and Dad, he receives a flat no. No amount of promising to walk the dog, and clean up its mess, to wash it and care for it changes their minds, so he hits on an idea. He becomes the dog he wants.
Children will laugh out loud at Billy as he takes on all the attributes of a dog, walking around on all fours, barking when responding to questions, eating his food from a bowl on the floor, sniffing the fences and almost relieving himself on the fence post. I can imagine lots of classes practising these skills for themselves as they read and listen to the story of Billy and his wanting a dog.
As time passes, he crawls into Fluff's bed with her but Mrs Banerjee sends him home as Fluff needs her basket for herself. When Billy returns the next day he finds that Fluff has produced three beautiful pups which Mrs Banerjee invites Billy to name. Readers will watch as each of the three pups grows older and one by one goes to another home. Sadly Billy watches them go.
Readers will learn a lot from this lovely tale: the attributes and behaviours of dogs will have them thinking about how a dog should be treated, and how a dog will need to cared for in the home. They will understand the emotional side of having a dog, seeing Billy so desperate for an animal that he pretends he is one, and seeing his loving relationship with Fluff next door.
The delightful water colour illustrations reveal a keen eye; the behaviours of all the characters in the book, both animal and human are drawn with absolute surety, depicted from close observation and love. No reader will escape being pulled into the story; sympathetic with Billy's aim, knowing full well the reasons behind the parent's refusal, and the warmth from the house next door with the three new puppies. Scroll down the publisher's page for teacher's tips.
Fran Knight

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