Shaggy and Spotty by Ted Hughes

Ted Hughes is perhaps best known for his stint as the Poet Laureate, his miserable marriage to the poet Sylvia Plath and his stunning poetry.

He did however, make significant contributions to children’s literature, both with his classic novel The Iron Man and its sequel The Iron Woman, several anthologies of poems for younger children and a series of creation myth stories.  This is entirely different, but none the worse for it.

Shaggy and Spotty is a very silly picture book about the adventures of two dogs who decide to take the day off and go and visit the fair.

The illustrations are done in a loose, cartoonish style which suit the silly nature of the story completely, and which give a really fluid sense to the narrative.

Shaggy and Spotty quite literally bounce from one ride to another. Just as you think they might fall to the ground as they are propelled through the sky from one ride to another, they are saved and have another adventure.  Eventually they are flung, by a trampoline, so high into the sky that the only thing they can think to do that might save them from crashing into the ground, is flapping their legs like birds and hoping they might fly.

This actually works, and the dogs fly back to their farm and their owner, causing birds to look on in amazement, and farmers to fall off their tractors as they swoop across the landscape.

The book is a joy to read. The story, although a prose narrative, is quite rhythmic and poetic, and has a wonderful refrain that the children can join in with.  The sheer nonsense of the dogs’ adventures make this a laugh out loud book and every child I have read it to has been mesmerised and convulsed in equal measure.

I would recommend it for four to seven/eight year olds as a totally delightful, fun story to read.  It is very interactive and it is nice to let the children guess which bit of the circus the dogs will land at next.  It is a great book for joining in.

The text size and font are quite small and the lines are quite densely arranged on most pages, so I would suggest it as a read aloud to a group book or a book to be read by quite a confident reader if they are encouraged to read it alone.  It is a perfect book for boys and girls alike.