Mandy Foot, Joey and Riley, Lothian Children’s Books, June 2019, 32 pp., RRP $24.95 (hbk), ISBN 9780734419217
Joey lives with his Mum on his grandad’s farm. Joey’s best friend is Riley, a working dog, and they do everything together, from meals to sheep counting to homework (well Riley waits, while Joey does homework). They are inseparable, until the day Joey’s mum announces she and Joey have to move – and Riley has to stay on the farm. After the move, Joey’s grandad sends daily letters about Riley, but every letter only highlights how different things are now Joey lives in town. He misses Riley terribly. Then one day Grandad’s letter says Riley has gone missing in a storm. Joey is heartbroken. He barely manages to go to school the next day. But when he arrives home, Riley turns up a few minutes later and they are reunited. Joey sends a letter to his grandad telling him Riley has come home.
This is a heartfelt, deeply touching story about the unbreakable bond between a boy and his dog. Through simple prose and beautiful pictures full of energy and movement, Riley and Joey’s story unfolds. Foot’s pictures are deeply imbued with emotion, from the pure joy of Riley and Joey’s farm adventures to the sorrow Joey and his Mum experience when Riley is missing. They also convey a wonderful sense of place, from the dry, rural setting of the sheep farm to Joey’s new home in town. The illustrations of Riley are particularly lovely, drawn with love and skill. Sensitive readers will be distressed at Riley’s disappearance, but all ends well, with the best friends back together again.
Reviewed by Rachel Le Rossignol