"Dogger" - Shirley Hughes

posted Jun 24, 2014, 1:30 AM by Amie Ridley   [ updated Jun 24, 2014, 1:32 AM ]

Most people know Shirley Hughes books as she is the author and illustrator of the very lovely
Alfie series.  She created a whole virtual neighbourhood (before virtual reality was a, um, reality).  But in our house Dogger was the book I remember from my childhood, and have read and re-read to my children.  In fact we read it so much when Miss 4 was just 2 she named her toy tiger “5P” because it had a tag on it’s collar… and at this point if you don’t know the story it usually requires a bit of explanation.  Which is how I spent most of the summer of 2011/12 explaining to many strangers why a small girls tiger was called “5P”.  Or I should say translating, because the wee girl had such an enthusiasm for talking that she would try to explain it herself, in exuberant 2 year old chatter.

Miss 4 (age 2) with "5P" the tiger

Back to the point - There are many reasons to love Shirley Hughes’ books.  They are simple stories of everyday life, that often deal with the emotions familiar to small children.  Dogger, for example, is about a young boy who loses his favourite toy. Subsequent readings never seemed to diminish the emotions of tension and frustration when it looks like Dogger might be gone forever.  But like all good children’s books it has a happy and encouraging ending.  Paul Jennings points out in The Reading Bug… that hope is a very important facet of children’s books.

Another book of Ms Hughes that we have often had out is Don’t Want To Go.  This lovely book is about a young girl who has to go and be looked after by a family friend for the day because her Mum has the flu.  Obviously she does not want to go, but she slowly warms up to the new environment, has a lovely day and when Dad comes to pick her up at the end of the day… well you can probably guess the ending.  

It is these kind of simple, relatable tales told with such beautiful illustrations that have made Shirley Hughes a favourite in many houses, including ours.  And the other reason I love them is for their emotions.  As the characters in the stories go through their difficult emotions and emerge hopeful or courageous, it gives the child a chance to experience those same emotions in the safety of another character, observed from the safety of a loved ones lap.  And this kind of emotional processing is just one of the reasons why reading with children is so important.