Best in Show

The Black Dog


One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family.

I was first introduced to the majesty of Levi Pinfold as an illustrator at a BookTrust event back in 2011. At the time I was interning for a small, independent children’s publisher and had very nervously been perusing the artwork on the walls (as a way of looking like I belonged!) when all of a sudden I came across this spread and was utterly spellbound:

The Black Dog - internal

(I have subsequently learnt that the small yellow creature is the girl protagonist wearing a mac not, as I originally presumed, a baby chicken!)

Black Dog is the deserved winner of this year’s CILIP Kate Greenaway medal, a prize awarded for distinguished illustration in a children’s book, and delivers a story centred on the issue of overcoming fear and gaining perspective.

This stunning yet simple allegory focusses on the Hope family and the appearance of a mysterious black dog outside their house that grows larger and more menacing with each family member’s encounter. Whilst the family’s fear causes the animal to grow and become more intimidating, it is the smallest, youngest child (named Small Hope) that is provoked to act and amend the mistake of its family – allowing prejudicial fears to overcome them.

The pure beauty of Black Dog undoubtedly lies within the exceptional imagery and still Pinfold manages to couple the pictures with considered and amusing writing. Asides like ‘the youngest member of the Hope family, called Small (for short)’ are abundant and there are measured memorable rhymes to keep children (and adults) engaged and entertained.

As with quite a few children’s books there is a clear message but the author/illustrator manages to bypass overly twee sentimentality and deliver a wonderful, timeless story accompanied by exquisitely stylised sketchings. A worthy Greenaway winner indeed!

4 star

[Also, in an adult world where ‘black dog’ can be interpreted to mean or an inadvertent reference to depression, I love that the counteraction for it, in the context of Black Dog, is Small Hope]

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