________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 27. . . .March 16, 2018


Great Dog.

Davide Cali. Pictures by Miguel Tanco.
Toronto, ON: Tundra, May, 2018.
46 pp., hardcover & EPUB, $21.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-10191-917-0 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-10191-918-7 (EPUB).

Preschool-grade 2 / Ages 3-7.

Review by Linda Ludke.

***½ /4

Reviewed from F&Gs.



“What about me?” I ask. “What will I be? Will I too become a sheep dog? Or an astronaut? Will I be an artist?”

My dad has no doubt about it. “No matter what,” he says, “you will be a GREAT dog!”


In this witty, tongue-in-cheek picture book, a canine father shares family lore with his son as they look at a long line of framed ancestral portraits. Not surprising to any genealogist, the truth tends to get a tad embellished in the retellings. A photograph of a pugilist-looking pug, outfitted in a crisp uniform and cap, is introduced as “Uncle Angus, the pride of the police. An excellent nose, he had. Nothing ever escaped him.” Lifting the sturdy, full-page gatefold reveals the unvarnished truth behind the legendary tale (or tail). A wordless spread conveys the punch line: an escaped convict in a striped jumpsuit pops out from a manhole, a masked bandit hoists a bank safe above his head, and a pickpocket makes his move, all while Angus obliviously strolls down the street.

      Other branches on the family tree include Uncle Tibor, a lanky, greyhound marathoner (“No one could ever keep up with him”); Uncle Scooter, a sheep dog whose charges “listened to his every word and never got into trouble”; and tiny Aunt Yuki who reached the stars. On the flip side of each stately, composed portrait, Miguel Tanco’s stylish and cleverly detailed watercolour illustrations tell a different, humourous story: Tibor runs the wrong way in a race; Scooter’s classroom is chaotic with woolly pupils gambolling on top of desks and shearing each other’s locks in the corner; and a helmeted Yuki gets shot out of a cannon at the circus.

      After eagerly listening to stories about his extended family, the young lad wonders what he will be when he grows up: “Will I be a police dog? A fire dog? Or will I be a champ?” The aristocratic father, nattily dressed in a tweed jacket with suede elbow patches, supports whatever path his son may choose, unequivocally stating, “It’s up to you!” In a surprise, twist ending, the son’s feline appearance is revealed. Along with generations of “great dog” portraits, his “great CAT” photograph is prominently on display in their home. Great Dog purrfectly conveys familial themes of love and acceptance.

Highly Recommended.

Linda Ludke is a librarian in London, ON.

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