Move over Spot, Kipper and Dirty Harry. There’s a new dog in town and he’s sassy, inquisitive and ready for adventure.
Meet Claude. He’s described as “a small, plump dog who wears a beret and a lovely red jumper.” But Claude is no ordinary dog – he leads an extraordinary, secret life. One day, when his owners, Mr and Mrs Shinyshoes, set off for work, Claude decides it’s time for a trip to the city. Accompanying him on his adventure is his best friend, Sir Bobblysock (who is “…both a sock and quite bobbly.”)
Claude and Sir Bobblysock have a fine day in town – tea in a café, shopping at the best shop in the world (a beret boutique) and a visit to a museum. Their day takes an exciting turn when Claude unwittingly foils a robbery and becomes a hero.
There is another story included in Alex T. Smith’s Claude in the City. The second adventure involves a trip to hospital, bananas used as thermometers, tattooed men doing embroidery and curing a mysterious disease. It’s as every bit as quirky and charming as Claude’s adventure into the city.
It doesn’t take long to fall in love with Claude – Smith’s illustrations perfectly convey Claude’s confident but endearing, dog-about-town air and the colour palette of red, black and white highlights the detail in the drawings.
Smith’s style of humour is spot-on for his target audience. There are a few references to bottoms and poo (such as the doctor in the second story, Ivan Achinbum) but most notably, Smith weaves bizarre situations and quirky details into the stories and makes them sound perfectly plausible –
“Claude didn’t know where to find an ambulance, so instead he decided to make his own. He tucked Sir Bobblysock safely under his arm and put on his rollerskates. Flashing his torch above his head and shouting ‘Woo! Woo! Woo!’ for the siren, he skated to the hospital…”
I particularly like the small format of Claude in the City. Veering away from the standard picture book format, Smith has instead chosen a small, novel-sized book. It’s genius – it taps into a group of young readers that are left in ‘reading limbo’. My six-year-old son, who is just learning to read this year, is eager to read “real books” (by which he means novels) over picture books – Claude fits the bill. The language is simple (but with a few nice challenging words thrown in, such as “titchy”, “snazzy” and “contraptions”), the type large and clear and there’s an actual plot (something that many early readers leave out!).
Claude in the City is available at Book Depository for approximately $8.50. Book Depository ship free to Australia.