Meet Gaston le Dog, a dog, as he tells us, who has done some amazing things. But perhaps none that have involved so many adventures as his journey back to the beach that he remembers from years ago. In his memory the sand glows golden, stretching into the distance, the sea is a cerulean blue. There are sand dunes – someone had even thrown him a ball. It was perfect. He sets off leaving his friend Hirondelle behind, but soon collects a motley band of new friends – Hérisson, Papillon and Chat le Cat. They travel on stumbling into the world of Puss in Boots, survive being turned into garden gnomes, make friends with a snake, and learn the scratch code to communicate with moles. The journey involves making choices. Will they be right ones – and will they reach the beach?
This is a lively tale told by a gifted storyteller whose accessible language, easy wit and humour ensure it moves at a brisk pace. As with all good fairytales there is a moral but it is lightly managed and brings the whole to a satisfying conclusion. The characters – almost all animals – are lively and quirky but very much retain their animal characteristics; Gaston, a loveable, bouncy mutt, Chat le Cat more devious perhaps, Hirondelle the House Martin whose migrations are part of the world’s heartbeat. Readers will enjoy spotting the fairytale elements and clever references to the contemporary world. Rosen’s inclusion of the French names adds to the fairy tale atmosphere and to the characters of each animal. Dog is not just Dog, he is Gaston – there is a very particular resonance to the name. This is then picked up by Viviane Schwarz in her bold black and white illustrations, surely an inspired choice as illustrator for this text. From the lively opening illustration where we meet an ebullient Gaston (and les Souris) we join Viviane as she brings this unlikely band of friends to life. Read this aloud, read it alone, this is one to really enjoy.