Love is a fickle beast and it is not helped that we often sabotage ourselves before we can even get the chance to be rejected by another. That person can never love me, I am too hairy, short, tall, fat, or slim. Our own hang ups get in the way of trying to see if someone will love us for our imperfections. One such creature going through a crisis of this nature is Philip, a dog with short legs. He has fallen for his new neighbour Penelope at first sight, but she towers over him. Can Philip convince Penelope that he is a catch? Maybe he can disguise the fact that is a little titchy.
The genre of romantic comedy is not the first thing you expect to read in a children’s picture book, but this is what Paula Metcalf set out to do with ‘Dog in Boots’ and she pulls it off. This is a comedy of errors that has more than a little of de Bergerac about it, but rather than have a big nose, Philip has short legs. He gets the help of his friends to disguise his stature and several of his daft ideas are very amusing. When disguises fail, perhaps poetry will work? The moment that Philip’s prose gets him into trouble is a highlight as it is very funny and uses the lift the flap element well.
As well as being a story book, ‘Dog’ is also a lift the flap book. However, unlike many books with the flap format, there are not tons of them. Each page is not adorned with flaps for the sake of them, but they are used sparingly to inform the story. In fact, I don’t think I have seen flaps used quite as well as seen in this book, many of the best jokes are hidden behind the few flaps on offer.
Metcalf has done a wonderful job of taking an adult feeling romance story and making it appeal to kids. Philip gets up to some silly antics, but at the core he just wants to go on a date. The illustrations are clean, colourful and work well – only being enhanced by a good use of flaps. For a 4-5 year old who is starting to read for themselves, or wants a slightly longer picture book to be read to them, ‘Dog in Boots’ is a great option.