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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
What Dog Knows
by Sylvia Vanden Heede and Inge Bergh
Age Range: 9-11
In this companion to Wolf and Dog (2013) by the popular Flemish children’s writer Sylvia Vanden Heede there are further witty exchanges between the two animal cousins. Wolf is uncouth while his cousin Dog is more refined. So when Wolf finds a fact-filled book in the library, he thinks he will at last be able to outsmart his clever bookish cousin.
What Dog Knows is packed with information, activities, quizzes, rhymes, stories and humorous conversations between Wolf and Dog. There are chapters on: Mummies and Skeletons; Robots, Knights and Pirates; Dinosaurs and Dragons and Rockets and the Moon.
Each chapter follows a similar format: For example, when Wolf finds a bone, Dog tells him it’s a bone from a cow but Wolf doesn’t believe him. Two amusing vignettes show Dog pointing out the bones in the cow’s skeleton on a blackboard and then another of a very limp Wolf hanging over the back of a chair without any bones at all. Interspersed with the dialogue are passages of text in different colours and styles of font which provide factual information explaining how bones work in the body together with an activity and a quiz.
When Wolf becomes wildly enthusiastic about building a ‘racket’, (as he calls it), in which he plans to send a certain irritating feline to the moon, Dog has to calmly explain that it’s a ‘rocket’ and then gives him a lesson in the history of man’s mission to the moon.
Vanden Heede’s refreshingly unconventional mix of science and storytelling is great fun to read with an excellent translation from Bill Nagelkerke that captures all the nuances and clever repartee between these two unlikely companions. The full page pen-and-ink watercolour and small vignettes by Dutch artist Marije Tolman are gems and are a perfect marriage with the text.