Alice Bowsher. London: Cicada, hb. 978 1 9087 1478 7, 2019 (originally published by Hato Press in 2016), £9.95, 32pp.
Fiction, Picture book, 3-7 years
Scruff is a perfect and very funny example of the charm and impact of simplicity, both in terms of the storyline and the illustrations.
When an unwanted, scruffy black dog finds a new owner, he’s expected to enjoy rough and tumble in the park like all the other dogs. But Scruff just wants to be pampered. Luckily, his kind and enthusiastic owner embraces the situation – and embarks on a little sprucing up himself, too! The twist at the end is both sweet and uplifting, as Scruff wins the ‘looks most like its owner’ prize in a dog show.
Young children will spot the well-evoked similarities between Scruff and his owner early on, and will enjoy seeing other dogs of different shapes, colours, sizes and personalities throughout the book. Each canine character is brought to life by the author/illustrator’s naïve, highly effective style which, with its bold use of black and white, pairs perfectly with her minimal, dynamic text.
The use of vignettes is especially effective and will encourage little fingers to pause and learn about aspects of dog care such as brushing.
There are two valuable underlying messages in Scruff: firstly, that each of us is unique and that’s something to celebrate; and secondly, that caring for a pet means getting to know him or her as an individual.
Highly recommended, especially for dog lovers.
Review by Kate Lee