DogFish by Gillian Shields

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Dogfish by Gillian Shields

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Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Sweet little book about being realistic and enjoying what you have. Some knowing humour and a dollop of slightly surreal illustration keep it from being in the least bit saccharine.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 32 Date: August 2008
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 1416910433

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Everyone has a dog. Except me.

So says the little boy in DogFish. He doesn't like going to the park much because everyone has a dog. Except him. So he turns his attention toward persuading his mother that they should buy a dog to replace the boring goldfish. Every objection she raises, he counters - the goldfish can't fetch sticks, living on the 44th floor would be great exercise, the dog could read the paper while everyone was out, it wouldn't cost much money as it would eat scraps. But mother is the immovable object and our hero is not the unstoppable force. Even his hypnotic eyes don't work.

So he starts to think about what he does have, which is a goldfish. And in his imagination, they go for walks, and do all the things he would have done with his dog. And soon, the goldfish becomes much less boring than he'd thought, it becomes a dogfish, in fact. And it's quite a shame, don't you think, for those people who only have ordinary old dogs?

Why would I need a dog when I have the best goldfish in the world?

I liked this little picture book. I'm in sympathy with the dog-hungry little boy. To my mind, offering a persuasive argument that a goldfish can prove as wonderful a pet as a dog in just thirty-two pages is going some. But the truth is that sometimes we can't have what we want. It wouldn't be fair to keep a dog in a flat when the people who live there are out all day. And somehow, whether you're five or fifty-five, you have to accept that. Counting your blessings is one way to do it.

However, children aren't always good at counting their blessings and preachy picture books aren't going to convince them it's a good idea. DogFish knows this, and it isn't preachy at all. It avoids saccharine with humour and surreal illustrations - as our hero tries every persuasive tactic he knows on his mother, his eyes are shown with concentric hynotising circles, a cat almost falls out of a tree at the shock of seeing a little trolley bearing a goldfish bowl trundling by, DogFish happily reads the FIN-ancial Times. So it's funny. If you can't always get you want, you're not going to get past it by being pious and perfect, but you just might if you make the best of it with humour.


My thanks to the nice people at Simon & Schuster for sending the book.

The ultimate picture book about unsuitable pets is, of course Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell.

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