Shirley Hughes: Dogger’s Christmas

Illustrated by the author

Published by The Bodley Head, Penguin Random House, 2020

“Dogger has become something of a celebrity. He was put in a glass box, on tour, at the Ashmolean in Oxford and Liverpool Walker Art Gallery. He has one ear flopped down as it should be, and another was cocked up from years of cuddling and has remained that way after 60 years. His eyes are rather far apart, which makes him especially endearing. He’s retired from the celeb circuit now, living in a shoebox, only coming out for the occasional photoshoot.” – The Guardian, Dec 22, 2019

If you have picked up this book and been enthralled by the story, then make sure you go back to the beginning and read Dogger, also written by Shirley Hughes, way back in 1977. This Christmas sequel, released last year, has been written and illustrated by the same lady at the amazing age of 92. The wonder is that the children Bella, Dave and Joe are still much the same age as they were when the first story was conceived over 40 years ago, and life in this new story is much the same as it was then. It’s a time I remember in my childhood, when Christmas lists were posted up the chimney, paper decorations were made for the tree, and hand made cards were given with love.

Dogger is Dave’s favourite toy dog, and almost as old as Dave himself. He is brown and small, with one ear up and the other ear down, and Dave’s constant companion. Dogger has been lost before and Bella, Dave’s big sister, saved the day. As Christmas approaches in this story, Mum takes Bella and Dave to the shops and they very wisely leave Dogger at home, waiting for their return sitting on the windowsill. Nobody wants the stress and trauma of losing Dogger again!

Christmas arrives and we are enveloped in all the familiar traditions of the day, with stockings full of presents, wrapping paper strewn everywhere, grandparents joining the celebrations and a special visit to a lonesome neighbour. The strength of family bonds, the joy of being together and sharing in the deeper meaning of the nativity is expressed so beautifully in text and illustrations.

It’s not until the end of the day, when mum and dad are cleaning up, and all the children are asleep at last, that a wail is heard. It’s Dave and he wants Dogger, but where is he? It seems that this time, Dogger is truly lost. Can Bella save the day again with her kindness, ingenuity and empathy?

This is a wonderful story about family, love, loss and hope. A story that keeps reminding us about the important things in life and caring for others. I can highly recommend it for children 4 years and up to 104 years, after all, it was written by a 92 year old lady, with enough life experience to share her wisdom with everyone.

Below are more of my favourite stories by Shirley Hughes:


Don’t Want To Go!

Moving Molly

Daisy Saves The Day

Bobbo Goes To School

Jonadab and Rita

Alfie Gives a Hand

Alfie Gets in First

Angel on the Roof

Lucy & Tom: At the Seaside

The Alfie and Annie Rose Storybook

Let’s Join In: A First Book of Bedtime Stories

Up and Up

My First ABC

My First 1 2 3

Time For Tea: A First
Book of Cookery

Snow In The Garden: A First
Book of Christmas

Deborah Underwood: Ducks!

Illustrated by T.L.McBeth

Published by Henry Holt and Company, Godwin Books, 2020

We are introduced to a little family of ducks in this simple but clever story by Deborah Underwood. One duck is more adventurous than the rest and gets distracted by a hovering butterfly and wanders off, following the butterfly in a daydream. By the time Duck returns to the pond, the others have disappeared!

There is a moment of shock and surprise, what will Duck do next?

Duck starts looking for clues that might help him find his family and we begin the rollercoaster ride of high hopes and dashed hopes as each new lead proves false.

Duck can hear squawking in the park, could that be his family calling him? No, it’s just a brass band playing.

There are webbed footprints on the path, could that be the footprints of his family? No, it’s just a boy with flippers on his feet.

There are feathers falling from the sky, could they be the feathers of his family? No, some children are having a pillow fight and feathers are flying everywhere.

All these false leads are humorously illustrated, and Duck’s emotions range from optimism to you-have-got-to-be-kidding. There are only two words used in the whole story and they appear as capital letters and express their own emotions! DUCKS? and NO DUCKS! The illustrations use only three colours and this simple combination of text and art works brilliantly together all the way to the happy ending.

I can highly recommend this story for children 2 – 4 years, it is easy to read, easy to understand and can help start a conversation about how it might feel to be lost, relying on yourself when there is a problem and persevering to find solutions in tricky situations.

Below are more picture book recommendations for stories which explore the idea of being lost:

Noni the Pony Rescues a Joey
by Alison Lester

Lost and Found
by Oliver Jeffers

Mini Rabbit is NOT LOST
by John Bond

Stick Man by
Julia Donaldson
Illustrated by Axel Scheffler

Little Owl Lost
by Chris Haughton

Puffin Peter
by Petr Horacek

Bunny my Honey
by Anita Jeram

Found. by Jeff Newman
Illustrated by Larry Day

The Lost Little Bird
by David McPhail