Dominic by William Steig
|Dominic by William Steig|
|Category: Confident Readers|
|Reviewer: John Lloyd|
|Summary: A pleasant and reasonably charming book, but one that offers a bigger feeling of inconsequence.|
|Buy? No||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 160||Date: September 2017|
|Publisher: Pushkin Children's Books|
Meet Dominic – a character that the text very belatedly gets round to telling us is a dog. He is in a nice place with nice friends, but is seeking something – his destiny, his calling, his adventure. And so, when he's been shown the right path for excitement by a witch-alligator, and once he's been gifted a spear by a catfish, he can go off and see what he can find. That turns out to be a major fortune, which seems to be a little bit too much of a burden – particularly when, no matter what Dominic does, the nastiness that is the Doomsday Gang can always sniff him out…
And what Dominic does, as you may well have surmised, is a lot. He can meet this, and that, and do this, and that. He can find temporary domesticity with a single mother goose with her five children. And the jackass will be called Hogg, and the turtle Wallaby, and the geese Fox, and it will all be quite bonkers. True, it won't get much worse than the initial chapters with the witch-alligator and the catfish, but you can seek for something akin to common sense here in vain.
Which was my issue. I didn't get a grip on things here at all, however pleasant and mild-mannered they may have been. Was there really a point to Dominic, other than being insufferably good? He's joyful, everyone else is happy (more or less) and the Doomsday Gang (of foxes, weasels, ferrets and suchlike) is evil. There is no shading, with no grey area for any character to fit into, and no real threat, and once you're on the same page as regards the wackiness, no real surprise. It was just an oddball collection of Dominic and his friends, walking around (as like as not on two paws, according to the decent illustrations) and seeing what happened to them.
If any moral were to be had, it is from the way Dominic dispenses with largesse and his fortunes at will, often giving a lot away for simple, practical reasons and for simple, practical emotions. But again, that just felt twee – it certainly didn't have the edge a 2017 audience would want from their young readers. This is forty-five years old now, but that's not the main problem, for I don't think it reads as being so dated the young audience today would ever realise. No, the big problem remained the meandering ease with which the author could go anywhere and do anything, without any real narrative consequence. Yes, there are a few 'call-backs', when a friend helped becomes a friend to help so as to return the favour, but this is too loose and flippant for my taste.
I must thank the publishers for my review copy.
For more investigative canines, there is Detective Nosegoode and the Music Box Mystery (Detective Nosegoode 1) by Marian Orlon, Jerzy Flisak and Eliza Marciniak (translator).
You can read more book reviews or buy Dominic by William Steig at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Dominic by William Steig at Amazon.com.
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