________________ CM . . . . Volume VII Number 14 . . . . March 16, 2001

cover Digger.

August Barton. Illustrated by Robert Rivard.
Toronto, ON: Little Thinker Books/Imaginink Creations, 2000.
40 pp., cloth, $15.95.
ISBN 1-894546-00-8.

Subject Heading:
Dogs-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 2 - 3 / Ages 7 - 8.

Review by Gillian Richardson.

* /4


Digger merchandise sold like crazy. Tina's mother and father hired accountants to count their mountains of money.
Tina phoned her father and tearfully said, "Father, the cat chases birds all day and drinks out of the toilet! I really miss Digger."
"Digger is making us wealthy, Tina," said her father. "STOP BEHAVING LIKE A CHILD!"
Tina hung up the phone. "But I am a child," Tina said softly.
image Tina brings home a stray dog that is not welcomed by her parents until he shows an ability to dig up riches. The parents take Digger on a treasure-seeking expedition, leaving Tina miserable and lonely at home. Only when Digger refuses to dig any more and all the money is lost do they return home and show surprise at the friendship Tina and Digger share.

      This book has an appealing Disneyesque cover and bright lively illustrations. Unfortunately, the story fails to deliver on that visual promise. While the book is named for the dog and the predictable plot revolves around his digging ability, Digger is not the story's central character. Neither is it child-centered, as we are led to expect in the first few pages. Instead, the adults hijack this story, overshadowing the dog/child relationship with negative images of exploitation and greed. The theme of extolling power and wealth at the expense of friendship and love is a poor choice for a picture book directed to primary age readers. Even the ending suggests an imminent replay of the parents' actions once they see that Digger is about to uncover a dinosaur skeleton in their own backyard.

      While we empathize with Tina, it is not because of her struggles or motivations, but because she is portrayed as a victim powerless to attain her only goal - to enjoy her new-found pet. But no child would want to identify with Tina. She is at the mercy of greedy and uncaring parents who turn a deaf ear to her tearful pleas and abandon her to a babysitter who is, at best, indifferent, but who looks downright evil.

      The writing and the attempts at humour fall flat.

Not Recommended.

Living in BC, Gillian Richardson is a former teacher-librarian and a published writer of children's fiction and nonfiction.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364