The Smartest Dog of All, by Ian Horrocks

My friends and I have a lot of dogs between us. Each of our dogs has its own personality – funny, sad, clever. Some are real dumb, but they are all different. Of course, my dog is my favourite dog. He is called Whitlam, which is a funny name for a dog, I agree. The original Whitlam was an Australian prime minister who got thrown out of government by the governor-general. I first heard the name one day when Dad and Grandpop were arguing about politics. They love arguing.

Whitlam is the runt of a litter of a puppies and arrives with little ceremony or expectation. But from the first he and a small boy are inseparable. The boy is convinced that Whitlam is the smartest dog of all. Whitlam likes attention but is happy as long as his boy is close and his name is mentioned occasionally. The boy’s eighth birthday party proves very exciting, particularly for a six-month-old puppy that feels that he is due some attention. And Whitlam does get some attention, just perhaps not the attention he anticipated. The Smartest Dog of All is a new title in Omnibus’ ‘Mates’ series. This series features very Australian tales told in very Australian style. The Smartest Dog of All is Australian from the political discussions between Dad and Grandpop to the birthday celebrations outside under the gum trees.

The Smartest Dog of All is a first chapter book for newly confident readers. The chapters are short and there are colour illustrations on every opening. Words that might challenge new readers are in different fonts, as if to highlight their newness and difference. The style is light and humourous. This is a tall tale with all the hallmarks of tall tales of old. It is told sincerely with the voice of an earnest young boy and it’s almost, almost believable. Illustrations are in coloured pencil and carry a humour all their own.

Recommended for newly-independent readers wanting to transition from picture books to longer books.

The Smartest Dog of All (Mates)

The Smartest Dog of All (Mates), Ian Horrocks, ill Sue deGennaro
Omnibus Books 2009
ISBN: 9781862918108

This book can be purchased online at Fishpond. Buying through this link supports Aussiereviews.

review by Claire Saxby, Children’s Author