The Postman's Dog, by Lisa Shanahan

Reviewed by Magdalena Ball

Lisa Shanahan’s Gordon’s Got a Snookie was probably one of the funniest children’s books I’ve ever read (I still chuckle reading it to my children), so I looked forward to Shanahan and Harris‘s latest book The Postman’s Dog with considerable anticipation. The humour in The Postman’s Dogis a lot more muted than that of Gordon, and there are no laugh outloud moments (like gorilla nitpicking or hospitalised hyenas), however, the book makes up for it with its tender prose, and rich sense of community and humanity. The story follows gregarious postman Charlie, who loves meeting the people he delivers mail to each day. Part of his pleasure is sharing the stories he hears with his wife every afternoon, but when his wife dies, he stops being gregarious. The neighbours rally together and convince him to get a dog, but his dog, who is otherwise happy and charming, doesn’t like his postman outfit, and the barking is driving the neighbours wild.

The story is ideal for preschoolers and there is just enough conflict to keep the plot moving forward. Although the story is sad at the point of Charlie’s wife’s death, the way the community rallies around him is moving and warm. Wayne Harris’ digital illustrations convey the strong and different characters of the multicultural community that Charlie lives in, including Mrs Zielinski, Mr Tran, Francesca and Mr Kumaradeva. Between the pictures and the text there are a lot of absorbing sub-stories and opportunities for discussion including the gelato shop and deli, Mrs Zielinski’s opera, Mrs Montague‘s violin, Mr Tran’s tricky immigration journey, Francesca’s ballet classes, and lots and lots of dogs. Children will love identifying the different ones, and helping Charlie choose a dog at the pound.

Adults will appreciate the positive messages, the camaraderie, the opportunity to ham it up–barking with Charlie’s dog or pointing out the detail in each picture, and above all, the gentle poetry of Shanahan‘s narrative:

And before long,
Charlie felt hope tingle
across his skin
like soft, summer rain.

Although there are no nits in this book, there is plenty of food for thought. This is another fine book by Shanhan and Harris, full of drama, pathos, and a very subtle humour.

The Postman’s Dog (Hardcover)
by Lisa Shanahan, Wayne Harris (Illustrator)
Allen & Unwin
Hardcover: 32 pages, October 2005, ISBN: 1741142520, RRP$A22.95

This review first appeared on Preschool Enetertainment. It appears here with permission.