Alfie the brave by Richard Harris and Simon Howe

cover image
The tempting front cover belies the title, as Alfie is shown with some consternation about the mouse above his head. Alfie’s eyes look upward with some trepidation, his ears in a sad flop across his face, complete with a dejected mouth. What wonderful characteristics are displayed with a few strokes of the illustrator’s pen, enough to make any reader want to look inside.
Alfie longs to be brave like other dogs. After all he comes from exceptional stock, but he loves nothing more than to snuggle into his mum’s lap on the couch, especially when he finds things a little upsetting. The garden is a good place to hide, while going on a walk sees him baulk at a cat that crosses his path. When taken to the beach he prefers sniffing at the seaweed, rather than face the waves, while going to a farm with those very large cows sees him chat to the birds somewhere else. He knows he is not brave, and wishes that he were, but small things scare him. Young readers will love hearing about Alfie, recognising their own fears of things out of the ordinary in their lives.
His family loves him and that is what is important but he would like to be brave.
Each group of sentences ends with ‘he was not the bravest dog’, a refrain that reads will love to remember and join in when it comes around.
The vibrant illustrations show a loving family with Alfie at the core. The illustrations model good behaviour with a pet, taking him on walks, taking him on family outings, allowing him to be on the couch, and loving him no matter what. The look on Alfie’s face says so much, and kids will enjoy seeing how a few strokes of the pen can give so much expression to the dog’s face. 
Of course in the end, Alfie shows his worth, barking at a snake to alert his dad’s attention. All is right with the world, Alfie is the bravest dog. 
A delightful picture book by Australian of the Year (2018) recipient, Dr Richard Harris, himself revealing a courage and level of bravery we can only marvel at. 
Simon Howe has illustrated a number of picture books, and is well known for his work in animation.

Themes: Bravery, Courage, Dogs, Family.

Fran Knight