“Rather like watching an excellent adaptation of a much-loved novel, the nostalgia wraps around you.” Alex O’Connell, The Times
Over 40 years after Dogger was published, comes this magical follow-up: Dogger’s Christmas.
At the end of last year (2019), The Guardian ran a feature, Me, Mum and Dogger: the return of a children’s classic, written by Shirley Hughes’ son, Ed Vulliamy.
The task in hand these past months has been quite something: Dogger’s Christmas. It’s a sort of remake of Mum’s best-loved and most successful book, Dogger, about a boy, Dave, who loses the cuddly toy on which he feels his life depends, the ensuing trauma – and resolution.
It feels a bit like a greatest hits album. Mum has done other books for this season of the year: Lucy and Tom’s Christmas, one of her earliest, and Alfie’s Christmas, featuring her longest-running character. But she has never before infused Christmas Day with that unlikely superhero, a stuffed toy dog cuddled with such intensity that his fur has worn off.
It’s a wonderful companion piece to this new title. We learn that Ed’s childhood bedroom is now Shirley Hughes’ studio, that the original story of Dogger was partly based on Ed leaving his favourite teddy bear in Holland Park – “It was just awful: Dad going down there with a torch, climbing in, searching – we never found the bear; you didn’t sleep for ages.” – and that the real Dogger, the one used as the basis for the artwork, was given to Ed by an Irish uncle.
And Shirley Hughes is quoted as saying of the new book: “Christmas in this book is more about family and home than cheap booze and shopping. Dave, Bella and Mum go to visit an elderly neighbour who lives alone while – please note! – Dad cooks. It matters a lot that the children know that Christmas is about the baby in the manger, the birth of Jesus and all it stands for. Whether you are Christian or not, there are universal values associated with Christmas.”