Wednesday 7 July 2021

The Bark Book

The Bark Book by Victoria MacKinlay, illustrated by Beth Harvey (ABC Books) ISBN 978 0 733 34 1397 RRP $19.99 HB

Reviewed by Nean McKenzie

The Bark Book is about dogs and getting outside with them, where everything is so much more fun. The story is told using rhyme, opposites, and homonyms in minimal, well-chosen words – only seventy-seven of them. Illustrations full of action, depict an enthusiastic dog on his adventures, going on a walk with its owner. For preschool children, this picture book should be popular with anyone who has a dog (or more!) in their family.  

The main play on words is the use of the word ‘bark’ with its two meanings. The dog communicates its feelings and wants through different kinds of barks. Then, when outside for a walk, there are lots of trees with their own varieties of bark. There’s also use of homophones with ‘rough bark’ and ‘ruff bark’. There are opposites: ‘Thin bark, Thick bark, Perfect stick bark.’ In the end, it’s all about enjoying the English language and having fun with words.

The increased number of families with a dog during Covid-19 are well-catered for with this story. And the message about getting outside and playing is a good one for kids who have been stuck at home in lockdowns. The main character (the dog) is very likeable and full of life. Kids might be very excited to know the illustrator Beth Harvey also works as an Animation Director on the hit show Bluey.

Author of Ribbit Rabbit Robot, Victoria MacKinlay was also a winner of the 2020 State Library of NSW Emerging Children’s Author Award. Her latest book The Bark Book is recommended for ages three and upwards.

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