Fiona Roberton, Wanted: The Perfect Pet

Hodder, 2011, ISBN 978-1444902624

This is a truly delightful book: clever, moving, funny and brilliantly illustrated.

Henry has twenty-seven varieties of frog, but they just hop and grrrrbit. He wants a pet with personality: he wants a dog. He wants a dog more than chips, more than an all-expenses paid trip to the moon, more even than world peace. A dog with floppy ears and a waggy tail that will catch balls and learn tricks. So he places a classified ad.

A long way away lives a duck at the top of a hill. No-one visits him, no-one emails. Going to the movies and playing ping-pong by himself are not much fun. He reads Henry’s ad. ‘If I was a dog,’ he thinks, ‘I could have a friend at last.’ He draws a plan (fig 1: me; fig 2: dog), and with an egg box, some old socks and some string he creates the perfect disguise, and sets off for an important meeting.

‘A dog’, yells Henry. ‘Woof’, says the duck. (Roberton’s illustrations are as sparse as her text. I defy anyone not to be utterly beguiled by the combination.) Henry and the duck are happier than they have ever been. But the ball-catching doesn’t go well, and nor do the new tricks. Duck’s disguise disintegrates, and a tear rolls down his beak.

I am not a lover of spoilers, so I will just say that the ending is tear-free. The book is a wonderful celebration of friendship. A worthy winner of the USA 2011 IRA Children’s and Young Adult’s Primary Fiction Award, I very strongly recommend it for reception through to year 3 classrooms and primary school and public libraries everywhere (and for all adults).