Gus Dog Goes to Work (Rachel Flynn, illus by Craig Smith, Working Title)
Gus Dog Goes to Work chronicles all the tremendously exciting things a well-meaning sheepdog could possibly get involved with when (inexplicably) his owner doesn’t follow the usual routine of taking him along in the ute for a day’s work. Think rounding up chooks, playing with schoolkids and rolling in dead things. The charm of Rachel Flynn and Craig Smith’s new book is largely in the perspective. The narrative is cheekily aligned with Gus, as the opening demonstrates: ‘This is Gus Dog. He has a house, a yard, a ute and a man.’ It adds a layer of humour to what is a very straightforward story, listing all of Gus’ exploits as he searches for his owner Tom, the ute, and ‘his’ sheep for rounding up. A more dynamic quality to the narrative would have helped shape the story. Smith’s illustrations have a cartoonish style that works with Flynn’s playful tone, and the balance between text and image sits very comfortably on the page. The vocabulary is laid-back (‘he knew what getoutovit meant’), matching the ever-present red dust behind the bright, energetic images. The repetition of some phrases throughout lends a sense of the ‘readaloudability’ of classics such as Hairy Maclary, but with an Australian tone.
Anica Boulanger-Mashberg is an editor, writer and bookseller at the Hobart Bookshop