Saturday 27 January 2024

Chico the Schnauzer

Chico the Schnauzer by Taryn Brumfitt & Levi George (Penguin Random House, Australia) PB HB RRP $19.99 ISBN 9781761343988

Reviewed by Karen Hendriks

Taryn Brumfitt is an award-winning filmmaker and best-selling author. A 2023 Australian of the Year, she advocates fiercely and strongly for social change. She is the founder of the Body Image Movement, and the co-Executive Director of the inspiring documentaries Embrace and Embrace Kids, and the author of five books.

Chico the Schnauzer is a picture book that celebrates individual body uniqueness. Chico escapes the yard and goes on the biggest play date of his life with his dog friends – Suzie the Sausage Dog, Penelope the Poodle, and Digby the Dalmatian are a few. Along the way Chico discovers all the incredible things dog bodies can do and it doesn’t matter if he can’t do what his friends can because all dog bodies are different.

Taryn Brumfitt has written a playful story with a fun character with an important message -- embrace your own unique body and what it can do. The opening four-word sentence with alliteration introduces Chico’s personality and appearance succinctly. Cheeky Chico is a schnauzer.

One day the back gate is left open and Chico escapes. The rumpus and fun starts as Chico adventures with his friends. This reminds me a little of Hairy McClary from Donaldson’s Dairy: it has the same cheekiness and sass, and alliteration is used for each dog’s name. Taryn lets each dog friend introduce a game for Chico to try. This creates a story pattern that uses dialogue, questioning and onomatopoeia so the reader can discover what each unique dog’s body can do.

Chico can’t resist a chasing game, ‘Wahoo!’ Zip! Squeeze! ‘Wow, Susie, your body is so fast and flexible. But mine is great at digging!’ This beautifully shows the reader rather than tells. As the story arc falls, we find Chico reflecting. As Chico walks home from the biggest playdate of his life, he thinks about all the things his friends can do with their amazing bodies, and … all the things his body is good at. The closing page leaves the reader with one last clever thought which I won’t share.

The illustrations by Levi George are wonderfully bright and bold. Chico sits proudly on the front cover along with the title in bright white with a dash of yellow. Purple endpapers appear followed by a bright white title page that allows the words and images to pop. The cartoon-like images of the dogs at play are fun and engaging. George creates lots of story movement on each page. The eye is drawn across to each page turn taking the reader into the story. Extra humour is brought in visually with Chico tangling his bright yellow lead around Charlie. George has added onomatopoeia that pops out in the spreads and a little white bunny even bounces into a couple of spreads, too. There are lots of little extra illustrations to add layered meaning to the story.

Chico the Schnauzer is delightful picture book for children 3 to 8 years about friendship, and embracing what your body can do because all bodies are unique and different. The fun characters and their adventures are sure to appeal to children, parents, teachers, and librarians. This is a book that has an important message delivered in a fun, engaging way.

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