Dog Squad: The race by Clara Vulliamy

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Eva has always wanted to be a journalist, and, together with her friends Simone and Ash, the she produces the Newshound newspaper for her school readers. Their first big story came when a whippet followed her home - so thin that she called him Wafer - and Eva set out to discover its owner, and found out more than she bargained on.

Now she wants to help Wafer makes some doggy friends and so she takes him to the local whippet races, And again, there is more to the story than meets the eye when she realises that there is some cheating going on. Along with Simone and Ash, she decides to investigate because this might be their next big story, but can they crack the case and is it safe to do so?

This is the second in this new series for young independent readers that has broad appeal for those who love animals, those who love mysteries and those who like to write. The diversity of characters, their relationships and interests makes for an engaging read, but it is interesting that many reviewers have pointed out that Ash is non binary. While it is important for kids to see themselves represented in stories, it also demonstrates that we still have some way to go before gender diversity is accepted without comment, in the same way that nationalities are. As illustrated in As Bright as a Rainbow, there are many ways to be a kid, and my experience is that they accept each other regardless of looks, clothes, gender, religion, language or any other barriers. It is the adults who impose the labels. But the more there is inclusivity featured in stories the easier it will be for those who may be "outside the norm". In this interview, the author, herself, speaks about why she includes diverse characters in her stories as she recognises the need for such diversity to be normalised, and, unsurprisingly, it is adults who feel they have to vilify her.

Regardless, this is an engaging series that is being enjoyed by many and they will look forward to The Show the next in the series.

Themes: Mysteries, Dogs, Newspapers.

Barbara Braxton