My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It’s always difficult reading and reviewing books by people that you ‘know’ and I do know Anne. I’ve talked with her a lot on Twitter about children’s literature, and I have a lot of time for her thoughtful articulacy. So you can imagine that reading Girl With a White Dog was an interesting experience for me; would I like it? What would I think of it? And finally, how can I review it if I didn’t like it?
So the first thing to do is to tell you that I did like it, I liked it rather a lot. And if I hadn’t liked it, then I wouldn’t be talking about it or reviewing it. I wouldn’t be thinking about the surge in quality British middle grade fiction at the moment, and how Girl With a White Dog is definitely part of it, and I wouldn’t be thinking about the quiet sensitivity of this book and the issues it covers.
The second thing would be to tell you a little bit more about what those issues actually are. Jessie’s granny has suddenly got a new puppy, a bright white Alsatian called Snowy. Snowy’s arrival seems to trigger something in Gran, and we start to discover what that is and why throughout the book and it’s a story which goes all the way back to World War Two. Coupled with that storyline, we have a more modern day storyline involving immigrant workers and bullying – there’s a lot going on in this deceptive little book.
One thing I do want to acknowledge is the ‘classic’ feel of it. There’s something quite lovely about Booth’s writing for me as it reminds me a lot of the ‘golden age’ authors, people such as E Nesbit and Noel Streatfeild. Booth has that very great ability to present her story with a simple, deft touch that does not judge nor does it forget the humour to be found even in the most horrible of moments. There’s a bit where Jessie is talking about a boy and (I paraphrase somewhat here) after listing his attributes of wonder, she then adds ‘And he’s really good at trumpet’ which is glorious and funny and true.
Girl With a White Dog covers some important issues and does so in a very graceful and subtle manner. This is a very big little book, and it’s one I’d definitely recommend.