Stanley by Colin Thompson
ABC Books, 2016. ISBN 9780733332852
(Age: 4+) Warmly recommended. Dogs. Prejudice. Family. Readers will recognise their own dog from the start of this very funny tale of not judging a book by its cover, or in this case, a dog by its appearance. Stanley is not a star turn as dogs go, he is built as if from old weathered bricks, but loves four things: his owner, Gerald, his food, his bed and his red ball. Gerald takes him to the park where he can run after his ball, but one day it is taken by another dog, a small fluffy dog that will not let it go.
The next day, a man, his daughter and their dog appear on the doorstep offering back the now battered red ball with a new ball as its replacement. Coming in for a cup of tea and biscuits, friendship blossoms between Gerald's mother and the man, and even Gerald and his daughter, and surprisingly Stanley and the small fluffy dog. Each dreams that night of who they have met and after many visits and many cups of tea and biscuits, the house becomes a home for all of them, a new family.
This is a delightful story of finding love again, of creating a home after a period of loneliness. Small hints are given about Gerald and his mother; there is no Dad, Mum is alone, Gerald has no brothers and sisters. And the man and his daughter standing on their doorstep with their dog, seems just the answer they are looking for as relationships develop over tea and biscuits.
Thompson's illustrations are admirable, with the cheeky looks on Stanley's face to the little hidden motifs within each picture, the pages will attract all readers to think about what they are seeing as they read the text. I particularly loved the thumbnail sketch of Gerald with his paper thin frame and deep eyes, his inability to look the girl in the eyes, reflected in the book he is reading. I laughed out loud at many things but this took my breath away as it described so many boys who find relationships difficult. They will recognise themselves and see that things will get better.