As a parent, I spent many hours mooning over puppies in pet shops, with my oldest son. We’d press our hands against the window and sigh over cocker spaniels with their dewy, chocolate-icing eyes, the staffies with their twitching, tigery skin and the lazy labradors, asleep with their heads in their food bowls. In the end, I’d lure my son away, with promises of cinnamon doughnuts, hard-hearted to his desperate pleas for a puppy. Until one day, when I was out shopping with my youngest son, I spotted a spoodle puppy in the window of Pets Paradise. I became jelly-legged, swooning against the glass, undone by eyelashes like long dark streaks of rain, a wagging, raggedy firecracker tail and eventually one small lick to my ear. I’d gone out that morning to purchase a black party skirt and came home that afternoon, with a black puppy instead!
When my older son returned from preschool and saw a puppy asleep under our kitchen table, he crouched down, whispering, ‘Is that real? Or pretend?’ When the puppy woke and yawned, her pink tongue stretching, he fell back on his bottom in astonishment. ‘That’s real!’ he cried.
His unadulterated pleasure was matched only in intensity by his youngest brother’s despair. What had happened to our quiet life? Who had brought this rampaging river of fur into the house? What was he to make of the puppy’s needle-sharp teeth, her inexplicable yapping and her sticky, insistent lick-licking tongue? How could he defend himself against a puppy so intent on stealing all his best things: his teddy bear, his dummy, the comfy laps and all the hugs and kisses? Suddenly, I was confronted with the disconcerting reality that what might be right for one child, could be horribly wrong for another!
My family’s story ended happily, with both boys reconciled to one another and their new puppy. Once my angst and guilt had dimmed and the comic aspect of that time had sharpened, I started to wonder about whether this story had further possibilities. Could it work as a picture book? I knew it would need the right sort of alchemy, the tricky balance between the real and the imagined!
Not long after, I started to get a picture of a little girl called Daisy, who would swap a thousand glittering doughnuts to spend one more minute with the puppies at a pet shop and a million iced doughnuts to take just one puppy home. In my imagination, I saw Daisy’s tired, reluctant parents fending off her requests with promises of once the baby is bigger – only for Daisy to despair over the reality of there always being just one more baby!
I am incredibly grateful to Sara Acton and her beautiful realization of Daisy, Ollie and her family. She captures the emotional undercurrents and the behind-the-scenes realities of the everyday delight and perils of family life. She portrays so accurately the incidentals. We absorb a sense of character and place through the tiniest of details: the funny chewed-up headless teddy on the end page, Jube’s spotty security blanket, the disarray – toy teacups scattered about the house—all of Daisy’s unspoken longing delineated with such unsentimental sweetness and delicacy!
What I love most about collaborating with illustrators are the unexpected surprises that come like gifts. On the last page of Daisy and the Puppy, we see Daisy, Ruby, Lark and Jube running wild in the park, together with Ollie. And we may also notice, in a masterful touch of irony, Daisy’s dad pushing a new baby in a pram!
“Lovely, simple coloured illustrations with lots of detail about puppies and their lives that picture book lovers will love too. A lovely picture book it certainly is.”
BuzzWords Books Magazine
“‘Daisy and the Puppy’ is a beautiful story about family. Although not written in rhyme it is rhythmically poetic. ‘Lark loves the sucking catfish, with their fins like floating veils.’ The dialogue is natural and reading this story aloud the words roll off the tongue with ease. ‘You don’t need one,’ says Dad. ‘Not when you can rumble and tumble with Ruby, Lark and Jube!’
The illustrations are wonderfully messy, sometimes running off the page, creating movement and life. It is through these pictures that you get a true sense of the warmth, love and togetherness of the family...Daisy and the Puppy is a heart-warming story for three-year-old's and up, especially for any young child longing for a puppy of their own.” Jenny Heslop
Books from the Basement Blog
“Splashy watercolours with sketched outlines bring exuberance and vitality to an entertaining story for pet-crazy children. This is a happy and upbeat family story that shows not everything goes to plan but a sense of humour always helps.” Kerry Neary
Janet Croft Book Reviews
“This is a wonderful story about children who want a pet, and in particular, about Daisy who wants a dog. What happens when mum finally relents, and Ollie joins the family, makes for delightful reading with children of 3-10 years. The children will take in the message that living with a dog changes life for the entire family too.”
Australian Book Review
“...Lisa Shanahan knows small children, their routines, loves, and fears.”
Notable Book 2013: Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book of the Year for Early Childhood.