Gaston – it’s all about family

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How do I choose books to review? Various ways – I keep my finger on the pulse with the latest from various publishers. I also have favourite authors and illustrators and follow what they’re up to, and sometimes it’s simply a case of spotting a book that immediately captures my eye. But I’m also influenced by my own children who, every so often, become attached to a story that I might have otherwise overlooked. Such is the case with this sweet little book about a family of dogs that’s my seven-year-old’s current favourite story.

Gaston by Kelly DiPucchio is the story of four puppies – Fi-Fi, Foo-Foo, Ooh-La-La and Gaston. Mrs. Poodle dotes on the puppies, three “no bigger than teacups” and Gaston, “the size of a teapot.”

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Mrs. Poodle strives to teach her puppies proper etiquette yet despite best efforts, Gaston does not possess the daintiness or finesse of his sisters. Gaston slobbers while the others sip, he barks whereas the others gently ‘yip’, and he barrels along while the others tippy-toe (which could also be interpreted as poodles mincing).

“The puppies were also taught how to look pretty in pink, nibble their kibble, and ride in style. Whatever the lesson, Gaston always worked the hardest, practiced the longest, and smiled the biggest.”

And it is by this point in the story, just ten pages in, that you fall in love with cheerful, eager-to-please Gaston.

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One day, Mrs. Poodle and her family meet another family, Mrs. Bulldog and her puppies, Rocky, Ricky, Bruno and Antoinette. Antoinette is a poodle…

“This was more than a little awkward. The mothers sized up the pups. The pups sized up one another. “It seems there’s been a terrible mistake,” Mrs. Bulldog said…

Whatever will they do?! A swap seems logical but it turns out it doesn’t suit either family at all, with everyone pining for what they had to begin with.

Gaston is a story about nature versus nurture, about belonging, about families, and about love outweighing differences. It’s also a story about trusting your instincts – just because a solution to a problem looks right, it doesn’t mean it feels right.

Christian Robinson’s illustrations are charming. The dogs are essentially ‘white space’ on the page, with bright colours painted in visible brushstrokes around each and finished with a few simple lines for eyes, noses and paws –  the result is beautifully expressive puppies that are truly adorable.

Gaston is suitable for children aged three years and over. Find it at Book Depository, which delivers free to Australia.

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Katrina Whelen

Katrina studied planning and design, did the hard yards working in a big office building and then traded it all in for a relaxing (!) life at home with four children. She now fills her time with writing, completing a degree in genetics and taxiing her children around Melbourne to their various sporting commitments (not necessarily in that order).

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