Tiny : a little dog on a big adventure by Steve Otton and Jennifer Castles
Allen and Unwin, 2019. ISBN: 9781760876586.
(Age: All) Highly recommended. This breathtaking book of photographs of a trip around Australia will capture readers' imaginations as they follow the path taken by Steve and Tiny, his dog. The photos impel you to turn to the map at the front of the book, to see just where they went on their epic trip. Steve's photos tell a story of a man who goes off with only his dog for company, 'Let's go, matey', initially finding this enough, but as the trip goes on, other animals make their appearance, and eventually other people. His solitude is softened by the people he meets, until he says to Tiny, 'Let's go home, matey'. And the reader is satisfied that he has found some inner peace.
The photos are absorbing, resonating with images of the Australian outback, vast red sand hills, low scrub, to the seemingly never ending roadway, and animals they meet along the way. When he meets up with people, the photos come alive with possibilities, as Tiny likes to keep busy and help in the stockyards. But Steve doesn't seem to want to stay too long and so the pair moves on. Eventually they move back home, blow the cobwebs out in the house and settle back in.
The photos range from full page to several smaller ones on each page, but each will grab the attention of the reader as they pore over the details each reveal. Children will love finding clues in the text and photos to pin point the places on the map, and wonder again at the vastness of Australia, and the time it takes to get around.
The sparse text tells enough without being sentimental, we feel one with this lone man and his dog, searching for a peace that does not come easily. But his travels come full circle and satisfied, he returns home. A wonderful book to share when talking about being alone, about needing your own space, it also lends itself to talking about Australian people, animals and landscapes, introducing that topic in class, or simply as a stand alone book for kids to read about Australia. It is rich and absorbing and I see more in it each time I open its pages. Themes: Dogs, Companionship, Mental health, Australia, Journeys.