The 12th dog by Charlotte Calder

cover image

Ill. by Tom Jellett. Lothian, 2017. ISBN 9780734416926
(Age: 4+) Highly recommended. Dogs. Animals. Pets. Cricket. Friendship. Family. Arlo the dog simply adores cricket. He can't bowl or bat but he excels in the field. He is the fastest in the field to get to the ball, keeping his eye fixed firmly on the ball as it leaves the bat. But on leaping into the air and catching the ball, he does not bring it back, he takes it away with him. No matter how hard the backyard team asks him for the ball, he simply does not give it up. So he is sent back to the pavilion until tea. He desperately wants to play, even fancying himself as a wicket keeper. One day Holly hits the ball off the middle of the bat. Up into the air it soars, over the heads of all the fielders form the street: Cooper, Yasmin and Max. Suddenly Arlo is there and catches the ball. He runs through mid-wicket, then silly mid-on and finally into the wickets, spilling the stumps and bails. All is tense waiting for the umpire to declare Holly out. Arlo has saved the day and finally done something with the ball that everyone approves of. After that the teams are happy for Arlo to join them - most of the time!
This is a happy joyous picture book about life in the backyard as the kids in the street play cricket together. Jellett's lively pictures capture the drama of the day's play, the everyday things in the backyard used as their cricket pitch, the mix of children from around the street, and their efforts in playing the game even with the help of Arlo. All the while Dad is up the ladder cleaning the gutters and keeping an umpire's look at the proceedings.
For kids new to the game of cricket many words used in the game are there to be questioned, without being overwhelming. The fun of the backyard game is infectious and I am sure many young readers will want to try it out for themselves.
And many readers with a pet dog will instantly recognise the harvest of balls in various states of disrepair shown on the endpapers.
Fran Knight