“A dog is for life, not just for Christmas” goes the famous Dogs Trust slogan, which was one of the key instructions for living a virtuous life if you were a child of the Eighties (along with “Don’t be a litterbug” and “Stop. Look. Listen.”).
But as much as you strive to be a responsible pet owner, there will always be parents who see animals as no more than the latest plaything for their overly spoiled child.
The Pet: Cautionary Tales For Children and Grown-Ups is a highly amusing tale about what happens when you let your kid rule the roost and let them have a pet without the responsibility.
Digby David is a particularly demanding little devil in the mould of Verucca Salt, who hassles his weak-willed father for more and more creatures, in a bid to outdo his classmates and their furry friends.
He leaves his guinea pig languishing in her hutch, he forgets to walk his dog… but when he neglects his gorilla, the clever chimp won’t stand for such second rate treatment and Digby discovers he’s the one who is truly an animal.
This is the second picture book by rising star Catherine Emmett, a mum-of-three who ditched a job in London creating spreadsheets to follow her heart to a quieter life writing books.
There’s a lovely humour to her writing which is brought to life brilliant by acclaimed illustrator David Tazzyman (of Mr Gum and You Can’t Take An Elephant On The Bus fame). His sketchy style and exaggerated expressions perfectly capture the utter contempt of the pets for Digby, along with this spoiled brat’s self absorbed attitude.
To celebrate the publication of The Pet, we asked Catherine to tell us about five of her favourite picture books. She said: “I’ve chosen five that we all love in this house. These are the ones that my kids ask for over and over again and which I think are really brilliant (and wish I had written!).”
The Book with No Pictures by BJ Novak. £6.99 (paperback), Puffin
My kids absolutely ADORE this book! The book makes the most of the fact that the adult has to read every word written in a book, no matter how ridiculous. Every time that we reach the part when I read out ‘My best friend is a hippo called Boo Boo Butt Head’ my kids collapse in laughter. It is such a brilliant concept book that we always go back to. Buy from Amazon
How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers. £6.99 (paperback), HarperCollins Children’s
This is one of my favourite books because I love the voice so much. A little boy dreams of having a star of his very own – surely his dream can’t come true… can it? Oliver Jeffers always has gorgeous illustrations and the book is so deadpan in its delivery. His books so often have an underlying humour to them which I love, and this is one of the only books where I really didn’t see the ending coming – it has such a satisfying twist. Buy from Amazon
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. £6.99 (paperback), Macmillan
You can’t really talk about picture books and not mention Julia and Axel! This is my favourite book by this partnership. The little snail dreams of seeing the world, and in doing so learns that you don’t have to be big to make a difference. The language is so beautiful and the message is wonderful – I could read it every night to my kids and not get bored by it. Buy from Amazon
This Is Not My Hat by Jon Klasson. £6.99 (paperback), Walker
For me this is the pure essence of a picture book. Funny, sparse and the very simplest of ideas perfectly delivered. The little fish has stolen the big fish’s hat, but he is very confident that the big fish won’t notice. The pictures however tell us a very different story… Picture book story telling at is best! Buy from Amazon
You Choose by Pippa Goodhart and Nick Sharratt. £6.99 (paperback), Puffin
My six-year-old has every book in this series as he loves them so much. The books allow him to pick his own story and adventure every time and he never gets tired of pouring over the pictures and choosing where the next story will lead. These books capitalise on such a simple idea really beautifully and will keep kids entertained for hours. Buy from Amazon
The Pet: Cautionary Tales For Children and Grown-Ups by Catherine Emmett and David Tazzyman is out now. £12.99 (hardback) / £6.99 (paperback), Macmillan. Buy from Amazon