Charlie and Lola go to the park one day with their friends Marv and Lotta. Marv brings his dog, Sizzles. Lola is dying to have a dog so she asks Marv if she and Lotta can look after Sizzles. Both girls try to impress Marv by telling him that they know everything about dogs. Marv shows them that Sizzles knows how to sit when told to. Charlie sees some friends playing football and tells Marv that Sizzles will be safe with the girls while they go and join in the game. Marv gives Lola and Lotta some rules to follow, the most important of which is not to let Sizzles off the lead.
Once the boys have gone, Lola and Lotta start bickering about which of them is in charge and about how best to hold the lead. Before they know where they are, Sizzles has disappeared. It doesn’t take them long to find him, but another identical dog appears on the scene as well. How can they tell which is the real Sizzles? Eventually one of the dogs sits when commanded to, so they think that must be Sizzles. When the boys return, Marv shows Lola and Lotta that Sizzles has a dog tag showing his name, owner and address. The girls pretend they knew about it, and the story ends with them commenting that Sizzles would never get lost because he is so clever.
Lauren Child’s We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog is of course a book in the ever-popular Charlie and Lola series. This particular story is the ideal one for any child who loves dogs. There is plenty to learn here about the serious business of looking after one, from not giving dogs chocolates to holding on tightly to the lead. It’s all done in an entertaining way so children will not feel they are just being given a set of rules. There is plenty of humour, from the start of the story where Lola makes Charlie pretend to be a dog to the moment where the girls see two sausage dogs, one emerging from either side of a tree.
The text is set in a large font, and sometimes an extra-large font is used for emphasis. Words and phrases are often picked out in bold as well. The text is superimposed on the illustrations, sometimes on a coloured background but never on a dark one. At times, whole sentences swirl around the page playfully, in one case forming the shape of Sizzle’s lead. Sometimes, the individual letters of words jiggle up and down. It all adds interest. We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog is primarily a read-aloud book that will appeal to young children, but six- to seven-year-olds who are independent readers will more than likely enjoy it too.
The illustrations for the book are Lauren Child’s own, in her unmistakeable style. There are quite a few grassy-green backgrounds because of the park setting, but pale blue, orange, pink and red create a good contrast here and there. The children have oversized heads and wide-eyed expressions; their tiny mouths curve upwards or downwards to give an instant impression of their mood. Sizzles is at one point portrayed on a unicycle as a juggling chef, and then as a beret-sporting artist. There is all sorts here to amuse youngsters as they listen to the story.
Charlie and Lola books appeal to both boys and girls, and “We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog” is no exception to this. Children who love pets will be sure to find this story delightful, but there is plenty of fun throughout to keep any young child’s attention. For reading aloud, it’s a book for three-year-olds and up; independent readers up to the age of seven or even eight will enjoy the humour here and are unlikely to find the story childish. It’s hard to go wrong with the Charlie and Lola series of books, and with Marv, Lotta and Sizzles in the story, this is a delightful one.
We Honestly Can Look After Your Dog by Lauren Child
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