Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A Dog So Small by Philippa Pearce

First published in 1962 this book may not appeal to many of today's young readers as they may not be able to relate to everything in the text. But, some will find it quite enchanting, especially if they enjoyed Philippa Pearce's award winning novel Tom's Midnight Garden. Ben, the main character, would dearly love a dog and when his grandfather promises him one for his birthday he is very excited. However, his excitement turns to dismay on his special day when he receives a hand embroidered picture of a chihuahua in a frame from his grandparents. It seems nobody thinks a dog is a good idea when you live in a small abode in the middle of a busy city like London. As it so happens, the reader learns, that this picture has special significance to his grandmother and was lovingly stitched in Mexico. As the novel progresses we see Ben visit his grandparents, as he does regularly, and enjoy the company of their dog Tilly. Upon his return to London he starts to obsess over the picture of the miniature chihuahua dog to the point where it nearly costs him his life. Some readers will find Ben's attitude in the final chapter very disconcerting and unexpected. Avid upper primary readers with good comprehension skills would definitely take away more from this book than a less capable reader. It contains some powerful insights into life.

He saw clearly that you couldn't have impossible things, however much you wanted them. He saw that if you didn't have the possible things, then you had nothing.

Ink drawing by Anthony Maitland are regularly dispersed through this book and are very representative of the way children's novels were illustrated in the sixties and seventies. I really enjoyed the illustrations as much as the story.

The hand embroidered picture

One of Ben's visions
Click on the link below to hear famous actress Judy Dench tell part of the story:

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