Dog, Shaun Tan, Allen and Unwin, 2020

From the publisher:


A beautifully poetic and gorgeously illustrated reflection on the relationship between dogs and humans. Dog is a stand-alone picture book of one of the most-loved stories from the bestselling and internationally acclaimed Tales from the Inner City by Shaun Tan, winner of the 2020 Kate Greenaway medal.

Once we were strangers,

legs bent the wrong way,

rough voices falling to the wind …

But in our hearts we wanted more than this. In our hearts, we knew there was more.


My kid is desperate for a dog. We can’t have one, where we currently live, in a small inner-city townhouse. We’re moving soon. There will be a dog. Maybe chickens, too, if I get my way, but definitely a dog. It’s progressing too slowly for my kid, this whole moving thing. She wants a dog now.

I get it.

I grew up with dogs – fiery terrier, Lucy, and her wibbly sausage son, Max; bundle of joy and fluff and little-brain, Dolly; my brother’s assortment of goofy, motley mutts. I loved all of them fiercely, even when they rolled in dead fish and painted themselves green by leaning on a wet-paint fence.

I want that for my kid.

I love dogs.

Some of them scare me – when my kid was tiny, they scared me even more – but the dogs I know and have known … they have my heart.

This book, by the inimitable Shaun Tan, completely broke it.

This book is a celebration of dogs throughout time, and their relationship with humans – from the first dog who won the heart of man, saving themselves from being prey, to a lonely modern woman, her heart warmed by a soft canine hug.

The writing is spare and simple, the illustrations minimal and impressionist and yet, in his singular way, Tan has managed to capture the universal here. There are very few people on this planet who have not had their lives changed by a special dog friend. This book is a beautiful ode to these friendships. It left me in tears, thinking of all the dogs I have loved and will love; all the dogs my child will love (soon, Tiger, I promise!), and how much they will teach her, as they taught me.

Humankind and dogkind were always destined to be intertwined. This book is a powerful exploration of that truth. I loved every moment of it. I read it on the last day of 2020. It was my favourite book of the year.

My girl, we will move soon. You will have your dog friend. They will transform your world. And you will read this book again, and feel your heart changed in a different way.

Then, you’ll understand why Mummy cried.

Review by Kate Gordon.

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