Sad, the Dog by Sandy Fussell, illustrated by Tull Suwannakit (Walker Books)
HC RRP $ 24.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
Sandy Fussell, author of the outstanding Samurai Kids series, has created her first children’s picture book. And what a debut! She makes an impression with strong messages, fantastic characters and moving themes.
Perception is everything for Sad the dog. How he perceives himself and his actions is in total contrast to how his owners, the Cripps, perceive things. ‘Hey, you!’ and ‘Dog!’ is what they call him. Unwanted and unnamed, he passes his days in an emotionless environment. His presence is barely tolerated. He is reprimanded continuously for simply doing dog things. Though he is fed and kept clean, he isn’t loved. He calls himself Sad.
One day Mr and Mrs Cripps simply pack up everything and drive away, leaving Sad alone and distraught at the house.
The arrival of a new family the following day makes Sad afraid, even when the young boy Jack, smiles at him. That night Jack introduces himself to the dog, and lays a path of dog biscuits that lead to a comfy bed. Next day the boy is still kind. Sad can tell by his tickling hand behind his ear. Jack plays with him. They dig in the yard and sail in boxes on dry land. And when Sad barks, no one reprimands him. Sad hears Jack name him Lucky, and knows his days of sadness are over.
Addressing themes of loneliness, friendship and love, this brilliant debut picture book gives the promise of new beginnings, both in the character’s and the writer’s life. Thai illustrator Tull Suwannakit’s second book with an Australian publisher is sure to set his career on fire, due to this exceptional translation of Fussell’s text.
Muted shades of brown, green and ochre, dominate the watercolour illustrations. The full page artwork enhances the emotional expressions on the character’s faces. The harshness of Sad’s keepers is perfectly portrayed in strong, sharp lines of their facial expressions and body language. The boy’s adoration for the dog he sees as a gift that came with the house and a new life is depicted in every scene. Simply perfect!