Alex T. Smith
(Hodder Children’s Books)
Meet Claude, a beret and jumper wearing dog with a sock – Sir Bobblysock – for a best friend. Once his owners, Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes, have gone to work, it is usually time for the fun to begin for the two mismatched friends. In the first of the two stories, Claude decides to go into the city and after a spot of shopping (and some rather extravagant beret-buying), Claude pops into the museum where he unintentionally stops a robbery and becomes a hero. In the second story, worried about Sir Bobblysock’s health, Claude decides to take a trip to the hospital with him where a case of mistaken identity propulses him into practising medicine. But there is nothing that can’t be solved with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit and once again Claude saves the day.

Lovers of the quirky, behold, this one is for you! This new series by newcomer author/illustrator Alex T. Smith is absolutely brilliant! Claude is a lovable (dare I say rather French-looking?) character who gets himself tangled in the most unlikely and bizarre situations and yet is always more than happy to follow the flow. He manages to gets himself into some fairly ludicrous situations and manages to resolve them with even more ludicrous solutions (eleven-o’clock-it is anyone?). The storylines make way for some great comic moments. Just to give you an example, the doctor in the second story is called Ivan Achinbum (say it slowly and you will see what I mean). For me, this kind of humour is very British, a la Carry On movies I guess. It is great, and will definitely appeal to young boys especially.

The art work is retro looking, with a great touch of 1950s elegance in the costumes of the characters as well as the surroundings. But yet it manages to remain highly humorous and in perfect tone and harmony with the text. The palette of colours is limited to shades of red, white and black which makes the artwork all the more effective. It adds to the quirkiness of the storyline.

I must also mention its format which is small (slightly smaller than regular paperback novel size) enough that it looks like a “grown-up” book rather than a picture book but is still heavily illustrated and therefore is a perfect book for readers who might still feel daunted by text-heavy novels.

This new series is exactly my cup of tea! It is wacky and fun with contemporary yet retro, and highly original illustrations. It will appeal to both children and parents and works well as a read aloud or as an independent read.

Claude is no ordinary dog and no ordinary hero. Watch out for this new kid on children’s books block, you will be won over!

Sent for review by publisher