Written in 1977 by Shirley Hughes, Dogger is a timeless classic, especially in my heart. Dogger is about a toy dog, “a soft brown toy dog…with his fur worn in places because he was quite old. He belonged to Dave.” Dave takes Dogger everywhere and he is his special toy. Dave’s baby brother Joe is teething so he likes hard toys to bite and Dave’s big sister Bella (I love that name) takes seven teddies to bed every night but Dave only wants Dogger.
One day Dogger goes missing and turns up for sale on the toy table at the school fete. A little girl buys him much to Dave’s horror and he cries and cries until big sister Bella comes to the rescue swapping her lovely big new teddy with the little girl in return for Dogger.
I think what I really loved about this picture book was the reality of the story for me. My little brother had a toy Snoopy that he loved carrying around with him and I can remember cramming my bed with teddies, making sure each one was snug. Bella’s kindness has really stuck with me all these years, such an incredible thing for a big sister to do, to give up her wonderful new prize to get Dogger back.
Warmth radiates from Shirley Hughes’ illustrations, I love Mum with her cool ’70s head scarf and the ‘Darlek’ costume at the fancy dress parade. The double page spread of an aeriel view of the fete is mesmerising, the bunting flapping in the breeze and fresh sponges on the cake table. Her illustrations actually barely need words because the expressions of the characters are so perfect that they convey every emotion, this is equally apparent in her wordless picture book Up and Up, which I posted about here.
But don’t for one minute think that this book is outdated; Dogger is endearing every time I read it and I hope in a couple of years Ned will really enjoy it too. (It is quite texty so will probably be better for him when he is over two). I also know he will identify with Dave and his special toy, Ned has Hutch! This is an old photo of them together when Hutch looked new…
Dogger won the Kate Greenaway Medal, awarded for distinguished illustration in 1977. If you love/loved Dogger too, read this wonderful interview Shirley gave to the Guardian last year about the real life Dogger.