Catherine Jinks (text), Stephen Michael King (illus.), Barney, Scholastic Australia, July 2018, 32pp., $17.99 (hbk), ISBN: 9781742996226
I had high expectations of this picture book after seeing its cover with a prominent Stephen Michael King illustration of a messy, smiling, tail-wagging dog and sporting King’s renowned name alongside that of another award-winning children’s book creator, Catherine Jinks. I wasn’t disappointed. The contents of the book itself I found quite delightful.
Barney is a messy, lovable family dog who loves to eat pretty much anything, with often messy and chaotic results. Barney is depicted enthusiastically consuming a range of substances – from the greens dropped from the baby’s high chair, to the soil in the pot plant or the goo from the mother’s bubble bath.
Michael King’s recognisable colourful, quirky, energetic illustrations seem to bounce off the pages. They illustrate Barney’s eagerness for food. He pulls exuberantly on his dog lead to attack a tasty treat or hungrily consumes an appetising morsel. His various facial expressions and body poses exude energetic enthusiasm or satisfied contentment or dismay at eating a chilli. The backdrops of colourful – and at times chaotic – domesticity include a little girl, a baby, a cat and a woman’s lower body, thus implying a family context.
The text has a true rhythm and repeated pattern as it lists the food that Barney loves – starting with “Barney loves greens. Barney loves bacon and biscuits and beans.” This makes it an excellent book for emerging readers to practice their new-found reading skills on, or for pre-readers to enjoy listening to the bouncy beat of the rhyme.
My only reservation about the book is that being essentially a rhyme describing Barney, it lacks an element of plot tension. Aside from that, I think that this picture book by two award winning children’s book creators will be a favourite with 3-6 year olds.
Reviewed by Barbara Swartz