The Dog Who Sailed the Seas
Laura James (author) Églantine Ceulemans (illustrator)
We all know that is vital to provide our youngest readers with quality fiction: a variety of books that will enthuse them and help a love of reading to thrive. This is why I am so excited about the many treasures I have come across so far this year for newly independent readers and here is another delightful example! Perfect for little hands, it has the chunky feel of older fiction whilst being perfectly tailored to draw in and engage our youngest readers.
This seafaring adventure begins on an ordinary day for Lady Miranda (a not-so-ordinary girl) and her four-legged friend, Pug. The plan for the day is a birthday party at the boating lake and Lady Miranda selects the perfect outfit for Pug: a captain’s suit and hat. But captains are in charge of great big ships are away at sea for weeks on end and Pug much prefers staying at home. At the boating lake, instead of getting on the pedallos, like he was supposed to, Pug gets distracted by a picnic basket. Being a helpful sort of pug, he clambers inside to check the quality of the picnic (and to sniff out a jam tart or two). When the lid slams shut, Pug and the picnic are trapped – oh crumbs – and the basket, complete with its waggy-tailed contents, are whisked away.
An accidental explorer on an accidental adventure, Pug is that special type of character who is instantly likeable. Separated from Lady Miranda, Pug decides that he really should try to be a captain, just like Lady Miranda had wanted. There is only one problem: Pug is terrified of water. From rowing boats and dinghies to pleasure boats and huge cruise liners, Pug conquers them all. And, all the while, Lady Miranda, is hot on his tail, to bring him safely home for a cuddle.
The bold illustrations, with their limited colour palette, are a real joy and capture the fun and adventure of the story, perfectly. The little Pug’s expressions are just delightful and there are so many little details to be seen in the backgrounds as Pug moves from mishap to mishap. The text is also shaped in places to add further interest and emphasise meaning.
Although this is a story that can simply be enjoyed and loved (a must for classroom bookshelves and school libraries), it also carries some important messages which could be explored more extensively.
We travel alongside Pug as he gradually overcomes his fear. This could be a great start to discussing fears with younger children and how it feels to be afraid as well as being able to show children how Pug overcame his fear, with a little help, one step at a time.
Children could do a lovely project around water and boat as it covers all sorts of water – lakes, rivers, canals and seas – as well as a whole raft of different vessels! A part of this work could involve vital lessons on water safety (especially seeing as at one point Pug falls into the sea and Lady Miranda falls into the pool – they both needed rescuing).
The end of the story creates a perfect free-writing opportunity for children, one that will really get their imaginations whirling.
I wonder what Pug’s next outfit and adventure could be…