Scruff by Alice Bowsher

Values: Friendship, Adaptability and Love.

Scruff is an adorable picture book for young readers. I can imagine that the bright, bold illustrations would be appealing to many children and the language is perfectly suited to new readers. Having said that, the funny basis of the book, "What came first, dogs that look like their owners or owners that look like their dogs?" will also provide entertaining reading to their parents or teachers. This book was kindly sent to me from Cicada Books Ltd, although I am under no obligation to post a blog on it.

In the story, a man goes to get a dog and ends up choosing the scruffy one that has been left behind because he believes he is also scruffy, and therefore they will suit each other well. However, when at the park, he discovers that Scruff does not like to roll in the mud or wade in puddles. In fact, Scruff loves to be pampered! He enjoys having a bath, having his hair cut and entering dog shows. His owner, in a bid to ensure Scruff doesn't feel left out, does the same. Soon, both of them are smartened up and entering dog shows. The story concludes with Scruff and his owner winning an award for 'Dog that looks most like his owner'!

Three Values I have chosen to explore in this blog are: friendship, adaptability and love. Firstly, friendship will be easily recognised in this story by children as young as three. The way the two characters mirror each other's behaviour and appearance is a sign of their close bond. It is never stated that the man is lonely, but he purposefully picks a dog that nobody else has chosen and does everything with him. This outward display of friendship is both touching and opens plenty of opportunity for discussion about what makes a friendship. Little children often adore their pets and can easily talk about the nature of their relationship. In this instance, the dog makes the man change for the better, as well as the other way around. This dual benefit of friendship is lovely to witness: explaining to children that friends should be equal partners is an important message to come from this book.

Secondly, the Value of adaptability is very apparent in this book. As teachers and parents, we teach children that they need to be flexible in life and willing to make changes. This book shows the main character making some changes in order to make his little dog happy. He learns he is happy in the process too, and maybe that assumptions he had made about both Scruff and himself were not quite right. A great way of opening up a conversation about whether and how we change over time.

Lastly, I would explore the Value of love with this book. There is a great deal of love shown between the man and his newfound best friend. Asking children to pick out the body language between the two that shows they love each other is a great exercise for both emotional development and inference. It is the same with the other owners and their dogs at the show. We should not disregard the relationship between humans and animals when talking about love with children. This could be one of the most powerful relationships they may have in their lives!

I really enjoyed this simple, yet deep book. It has lovely moral messages for children to explore, but is playful and funny at the same time. I love the style author and illustrator Alice Bowsher uses and can't wait to read some more of the books she has illustrated. You can follow her on Twitter: @abowsh as well as the brilliant publisher, @cicadabooks. You can buy a copy of the book here: Cicada Books. I will definitely be sharing this with my three-year-old twin nieces!