The Great Dog Disaster by Katie Davies

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The Great Dog Disaster by Katie Davies

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: An inferior choice in what is normally a bouquet of riches from this author, as a family and friendship are hit by the least-successfully canine dog imaginable.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Yes
Pages: 208 Date: June 2012
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
ISBN: 9781847385987

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Suzanne's dad is shouting again, loud enough to be heard through the kitchen walls into the house next door, where Anna lives. He must think he sounds like a stuck record, saying for the umpteenth time they can't and won't have a dog as a pet. But what if it's left Suzanne in a will? Unfortunately, what gets delivered is nothing like the dreamt-of Cheetah or Bullet, but the most lumpen, lazy, poo-smelly attempt at a dog ever. And unfortunately, the attempts to train and exercise it involves Anna in lots of poo-smelly-bit shoving, and so much time and effort it could even break their friendship...

This, after just a short order of time, is already the fourth story in this series of adventures for Anna and her family and friends and pets. It might be the beginning of the end, for it unfortunately fails to reach many of the superlative heights that have gone before. For one I found it a lot less funny than previous volumes, probably due to so much of the comedy coming from scatological whimsy - the animal involved doesn't just smell of poo. I also found the idiomatic narration from Anna - still with her cut-out dictionary definitions and her lists of wishes, pros and cons and her secret plans - nearly underwhelming this time. Perhaps it just sounded a lot more routine this fourth time around, but I think there has been more wordplay and quirky narration before.

Added to all that is the fact that for once the ability to tie everything together in brilliant ways eludes Ms Davies. Yes, there is the basic, entertaining story of the reluctant dog and how it gets transformed (or not). This is both fun and to some extent educational. There is also a good look at how the efforts in building the canine character threatens Anna's friendship with Suzanne, but I am sure that before now our author would have combined all three, if not more, elements in completely brilliant, subtle ways. Certainly, last time there was a much superior way of threading important real life on to a story that seemed to be just about a cat.

Yet there are still pleasures to be had. The kids aren't flawless or particularly clever at all, ducks make a fun cameo, and there is a very funny set piece involving the dog's ablutions and some very inappropriately 'borrowed' household goods and personal toiletries. But the fact that that just dies a death when a comeuppance for it would have been easy, quick and much more satisfying, just adds to my evidence that for once, there was a version of this book in my head that is more funny and cleverer than the reality. I didn't think that at all possible before these merely 'good' as opposed to 'blindingly good' pages.

I must thank the publishers for my review copy.

A non-fiction guide to the reality behind pet-owning of various sorts, for this audience, is Humphrey's World of Pets by Betty G Birney.

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