Written and Illustrated by Levi Pinfold
Templar Books, 2012
Awards: Kate Greenaway Medal (2013)
One day, a black dog came to visit the Hope family. Mr. Hope was the first to see it.
The plot in a nutshell: A family fears a mysterious dog that seems to be growing larger and larger, until the youngest child bravely faces it.
Here’s an allegorical story whose symbolism is unmistakable. The black dog of the title is first seen by Mr. Hope, who describes it as the size of a tiger. His wife sees it a little later and says it’s the size of an elephant. It continues to appear larger and larger for the older children and the family goes into hiding inside their house. The youngest child, nicknamed Small, finds it all silly and goes out into the snow to face the dog alone. By this time, he’s bigger than their house, but she bravely tells him he’ll have to catch her if he wants to eat her and she leads him on a chase, making up a song as she goes. By the time she gets back to her home, the dog is small enough to follow her through the cat flap and the family realizes he’s not so big or scary after all.
While one might question the family allowing the tiny child to face the dog alone, she was the only one who had the courage it took to face the problem and whittle it down to her own size so that it could be dealt with. Author/illustrator Levi Pinfold populates this story with full page color artwork and small monochromatic pictures that show us a little more of the story, usually side by side. The pictures are stunning, with wonderful details that give us insight into this unusual family. I love that we usually only see bits and pieces of the dog, leaving much about his actual size up to the imagination.
You can’t help noticing that the youngest child, who has the strength to face the family’s fear, is named Small Hope. Maybe he’s saying that you can get past that lurking danger if you have even a small hope. I can get behind that.
And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that facing your fear often shows it to be not nearly as gigantic as it seemed before you looked directly at it.