Libby Hathorn (text), Phil Lesnie (illus), A Soldier, a Dog and a Boy. Lothian/Hachette, 22 March 2016 32pp., $24.99 (hbk), ISBN 9780734416377
There are two things that immediately hit the reader on beginning this book. Firstly Phil Lesnie’s illustrations on the opening page, which immediately set the story in the fields of Flanders; and secondly the powerful narrative voice employed by Libby Hathorn, reminiscent of that she used so effectively in Way Home.
A young soldier finds a dog on the battle field and begins talking to him and encouraging him to come with him as a mascot. He has just established a vivid picture of the life they will have together when another voice, that of a young boy, becomes part of the dialogue. It is his dog and he wants him back.
Rather than destroy the outcome I will leave you to read this for yourself. Suffice to say it is based on historical sources, it is powerful and touching with so many themes to unpack. The illustrations not only support the story, they extend it and move it in many wonderful and emotional ways. Between them, the illustrator and author have created a beautifully fused picture book that I would highly recommend for readers of any age.
Reviewed by Sue Clancy