Sunday, May 27, 2018

A Dog So Small, by Philippa Pearce

Staff review by Chris Saliba

A faithfully drawn story about a working class family and its sensitive middle child.

Ben Blewitt is the middle child in a working-class family of five children. Even though Ben is part of a big family, life can be lonely as the middle child. Ben hopes that by getting a dog for his upcoming birthday, this will go some way to making his life a little less lonely. His grandfather has promised to get him one. But when the day of his birthday arrives, all he gets from his grandparents is a woolwork picture of a chihuahua. The real dog, as promised, has not materialised. Granny has said they can't afford to give a dog. If they did, they would have to give one to each of their grandchildren, and they have many.

Ben is plunged into a gloominess. Why can't he have a dog? He starts to imagine he owns the chihuahua in the picture by closing his eyes. This habit gets him into quite a bit of strife – at school and with his parents. Then one day he crosses the road with his eyes closed and later finds himself in hospital. But maybe Ben's luck is about to change when Grandpa and Granny's dog, Tilly, has a litter. If he can only find a place nearby to run a dog, then maybe he can have one of the pups.

Philippa Pearce's 1962 novel for children, A Dog So Small, is a faithfully drawn story about a working class family and its sensitive middle child. The scenes that involve Ben's grandparents, Granny and Grandpa, are wonderfully realistic and full of warmth. Pearce has clearly filled her story with many personal experiences and memories. Her storytelling is true to life. Readers who have enjoyed Eve Garnett's The Family from One End Street and Noel Streatfeild The Bell Family will embrace this wise and humble story.

A Dog So Small, by Philippa Pearce. Published by Puffin. ISBN: 9780141355191 RRP: $14.99

To sign up for our monthly newsletter, featuring new releases, book reviews and favourite articles from around the web, click here.