Ill. by Greg Holfeld. Working Title Press, 2017. ISBN 9781921504747
(Age: 5+) Recommended. Depression, Mental health. When the brown dog appears at his house, Henry knows he usually only stays for a day or so, then goes off somewhere else. But this time the dog stays. He sleeps on the end of his bed, and stops Henry from doing things he likes doing. When Sam next door asks him to play football Henry's response is 'Nah, not today, sorry'. When Dad suggests riding his skateboard, he declines, with 'not right now'. Sometimes the dog lays in front of the door, stopping him from going to school, and sometimes the two sit under a tree, Henry pretending to read while others play.
Readers will easily make the parallel between Henry and the dog. The dog is a metaphor for how Henry is feeling and children will recognise the times when they feel low, or a friend feels sad.
The wonderfully sombre pen and ink wash illustrations, reflect Henry's mood as he rejects all attempts about him to lighten his mood. The dog is a marvelous tool in the story, reflecting Henry's mood but also adding a sense of friendship to the boy who rejects all else.
Holfeld's illustrations of the boy at the start of the book, sad, sedentary, alone, are stunning. Children will easily articulate words which describes how Henry is feeling. When his grandfather comes the feeling lifts a little. Henry and the dog are pleased to see him, movement is shown on each page, Henry is no longer still and quiet, and there is a little colour on each page.
What a wonderful vehicle to discuss issues in the class, The brown dog can be linked with several others about depression which have been published recently for children: I need a hug (Aaron Blabey) Huff (Anna Walker) and Blue whale blues (Peter Carnavas)
And the last line, 'it's my move, Grandpa' is redolent with meaning.