Last year before Christmas I was reading about the Icelandic tradition of Jólabókaflóð. If you don’t know what it is, well, you can read all about it here. In short, though, it’s a tradition by which people in Iceland give each other a book on Christmas Eve and spend the night reading the book until they fall asleep.
Well, being a book lover myself (and I mean a book lover, because I love books as objects as much as I love reading them), I thought this was a lovely tradition and I decided to start it in my own household last Christmas. I bought an audio book for my husband because, let’s be honest, I’ve bought him several books through our relationship and I’ve only been successful with one. It was Alive, if you were wondering.
I did, however, buy two picture books for my children. I bought The Detective Dog by Julia Donaldson for my five year old daughter, E. Let me tell you, I wasn’t disappointed.
First of all, the story joins two things that I love: detective stories and books, so it was promising. The story follows a dog called Nell who also happens to be a detective. The case at hand is the mysterious disappearance of the books in her owner’s school.
Of all the books I’ve read to my children, this is my favourites, and for several reasons and, every night, when I ask E what story she wants read, I am hoping for The Detective Dog.
It has substance. It’s not like some other stories which literally revolve around going to sleep – and I can’t tell you how many of those I’ve read. It has an actual story and a nice message at the end which reinforced the already present encouragement for children to read, a theme very close to my heart.
The other joy of this book is the lovely flow of the language and how it rhymes so beautifully. The words are neither forced nor ill-fitted into their respective sentences and it rolls of the tongue making it pleasurable for the reader, which is important because when a child likes a story, you can bet your backside you are going to read it over and over again, for a long time.
Finally, the artwork is lovely. Now, I have problems with some of the illustrations in some of these books. In the search for modernity, illustrations often cross the line between being current and being ugly. In The Detective Dog we might be close to the line but the line but it is just as close as it can get while still successfully achieving a pleasant style. The illustrations are contemporary and the colours are subtle but we find the proportions pleasant. They also, as they should, carry part of the storytelling, which helps the children follow the plot.
A highly recommendable book that even parents will enjoy and if you have a birthday, christening, first communion, or, maybe, a non-birthday of a child close to you, you should definitely get this lovely story for them.