Saturday 21 May 2016
A DOG CALLED FLOW by Pippa Goodhart Reviewed by Adèle Geras
My usual disclaimer to start with: Pippa Goodhart is a friend of mine but I promise you I am reviewing her book because I like it and because, apart from liking it, I think that this kind of book is often overlooked in the press and online in favour of louder, more glamorous books: books which are perceived as sensational in some way: newsworthy, shocking, edgy.
This short novel was actually Pippa Goodhart's very first book and was shortlisted for the Smarties Prize. It's now been reissued by Troika Books. It's short and there's a lot to be said for books which are designed for younger children in a way that isn't too daunting or difficult, and this length will attract readers who might be put off by something denser and more complicated.
One of this story's most important achievements is that it encompasses many different plot strands and themes in a very elegant way. It's economical, too, and manages to paint a picture not only of a landscape, but also of a community and a particular family in very few words but without leaving anyone feeling short-changed.
Oliver is having trouble at school. He can't quite manage reading and writing as well as he would like to. He desperately wants a dog. He has a problematic relationship with Craig, a boy in his class. His parents and sister provide a happy family for him to live in, but even there, his Dad seems set against the idea of a puppy.
For a while, Oliver has to hide Flow, but eventually, even Dad is won over by the puppy who is partly blind. Oliver didn't have to pay for Flow, because the farmer knows he won't make a working dog on the Fells.
I'm not going to tell you more of the plot, but tension and excitement mount as the story progresses and everything is as sharply organised and worked out as you could wish for. Problems that Goodhart has set up are resolved in a neat and convincing way, and the satisfaction of a happy ending for everyone is very welcome.
This would be a perfect book for readers who are just beginning to try whole books on their own and I think every classroom ought to have a copy on their shelves.
Readers also, incidentally, get a good idea of what the Fells look like and learn about the work of the Mountain Rescue teams. It may be a short book but it packs a punch....and there's a nice little surprise at the very end, which I am not revealing!
Illustrated by Anthony Lewis
Pbk: TROIKA BOOKS (price £5.99)
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