Oh, Albert by Davina Bell

cover image

Ill. by Sara Acton. Penguin, 2016. ISBN 9780670078608
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Dogs. Animals. Pets. Family. The front cover and first endpaper show the reader what sort of dog Albert is, and why the title of this luminous picture book Oh, Albert, is said with exasperation. The young readers will immediately recognise Albert's naughtiness, perhaps comparing it with things they have inadvertently done at home causing annoyance. The overturned plants on the cover and the sprinkling of flowers as children turn over the page will cause laughter, laughter which continues all the way through the story.
On Monday all by himself, he chews a pink ribbon, on Tuesday a red triangle, on Wednesday he finds some funny green things to roll around with, on Thursday a brown ball, on Friday a wriggly piece of white string, on Saturday a whole planet, but this time the effect is quite different. Each time he eats something inappropriate it results in one of the family admonishing the dog, but on Saturday, concern is reversed as he has eaten something which makes him quite sick.
Then the love of the family explodes for the dog as they all sit at the vet's waiting for him to be made well again, all sins forgiven.
I love the way the author has intertwined the misdemeanor with what the family is doing, the journey each takes to the party on Saturday where the family comes together. The spare writing and wonderful illustrations reflects the things a family does and the space held by the family pet but it also shows that children can do silly things which have consequences, but all is forgiven within the family. The book invites children to share their stories of a pet which has caused problems within the family, but also to see that these are temporary, that love for the pet or the child holds fast no matter what has been done. Sara Acton's lovely watercolour illustrations are perfectly suited to this tale of the family, adding a layer of fun within her drawings, inviting readers to look closely at the expressions on all the faces. And after all the mayhem, the last endpaper shows Albert smugly asleep.
I laughed out loud at the recognition of calm after the storm and total lack of concern shown by the main mischief maker.
Fran Knight