Our Dog Benji (Pete Carter & James Henderson, EK Books)
Many kids are fussy eaters; many dogs are not. With this simple premise Pete Carter sets up his picture book, ably supported by illustrator James Henderson. Benji, the little boy’s dog, seems to be an omnivore with a great appetite. He ‘eats almost everything and anything’, even food items usually spurned by children: Brussels sprouts, mushrooms (raw or cooked) and olives. He’s not at all discriminating; grass and daffodils are the same as ice-cream to him. Carter is spot on when he writes from the perspective of an eternally ravenous hound who runs to the kitchen every morning in case the fridge had exploded overnight. The narrative follows Benji around on his daily attempts to mooch for food, whether it’s for potential treats that have dropped under the kitchen table, or in the nearby bakery, should his gate be accidentally left open. But how does this tie in to the appetites of children? The book suggests that the child is inspired by Benji to adopt a wider diet (aside from the flowers and bugs, of course), however, that link feels a bit tenuous. Fussy toddlers and pre-schoolers, as well as parents and other adults, can discuss the benefits (or lack thereof) of Benji’s varied diet. James Henderson’s illustrations are winsome and sweet and the ending will prompt a cheer from little ones.
Thuy On is a freelance arts journalist and reviewer and the books editor of the Big Issue