Saying Goodbye to Barkley: Book Review

Olivia and Barkley are inseparable. They love to play many games but being superheroes is one of their favourites...until one day Barkley needs to retire...and then he's gone. Will play ever be fun again for Olivia?

Title: Saying Goodbye to Barkley
Author: Devon Sillett
Illustrator: Nicky Johnston
ISBN: 9781925335965 (hardback) : 9781925820447 (paperback)            Language: English

Classification: Fiction
Type: Picture Book
Themes: love, animal-human companionship, grief/death

What's it about?
Olivia and her pet dog, Barkley, are the best of friends. They do everything together, until one day her mum says that Barkley needs to retire from being a super-hero companion. Worse still is when Barkley is gone forever.

Simple sentences on the pages that complement the illustrations well - there are no busy backgrounds as the focus is solely on the characters.

Some kids might get distressed about Barkley if they've never had a pet die.

My Thoughts
A new 2019 release from EK Books this one deals with the topic of saying goodbye to pets - which I'm really pleased to see. I am perhaps also grateful for the timing after my kids said goodbye to our cats of 19 years just before Christmas last year. My kids took it quite well but every now and then questions crop up...and we've since had to bury a couple of pet fish as well so this topic is relevant in our house!

Olivia demonstrates a really close relationship with Barkley, like most kids her age she probably spends more time with the dog than anyone else! It's fun to read about their adventures together which subtly show creative play.

I feel Devon has done a particularly good job with Barkley's death. It's not sudden (like a car accident or something) but shows that when he needs to 'retire' that something is happening with Barkley. A discussion about why Barkley can't play anymore would be great in the classroom - is he getting really old, could he have an old injury like a sore leg, could he be sick with cancer? So many ways to open up discourse and encourage both Text-to-Self and Text-to-World connections.

Then she goes to get another dog. Honestly, I wasn't sure how I felt about that when I first read it. We've chosen to have a break from pet cats for a while but maybe that's more for me than the kids. Anyhow, they go to the shelter and adopt a dog (yay! great for showing the need to adopt the cats and dogs that are in need of home instead of doing for babies!). There Spud is chosen. I had expected things to go back to how they were but was pleased to see that the author chose to make Spud different. It showed that while she still played with Spud and loved him, their relationship was different than the one she had with Barkley. I like this in particular as it can be used to teach children that you can be friends with lots of others - and none will be the same as each other.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and recommend it for lower primary ages (ages 4-grade 2). It would work well paired with Teddy the Shelter Dog to show the human/animal companionship angle.

Special thanks to EK Books and HarperCollins Publishers for the ARC.


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