Reviews /

My Friend Andy

Authored by Emma Chinnery
Illustrated by Emma Chinnery
Published by Little Tiger Press Group

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On the surface My Friend Andy is a story of a lost dog told from its perspective, and for many 4–5-year-olds that will be sufficient to provide engagement. However, as with so many picture books, it is also a story that addresses homelessness.

Fluffy, the narrator, is owned by Lilly and every morning they and Lilly’s mum go to the park. On the way they pass Andy and his human, homeless and busking for sustenance. Fluffy is not allowed to play with Andy, and neither Lilly nor her mother are particularly keen for a friendship to develop. One day Fluffy chases a ball out of the park and loses his way. He is lost and alone in the city, until he is spotted by Andy and his human (who is never named) and taken care of. That night they all sleep under the railway arches, the dogs snug and warm, singing songs until they are sleepy. Kindness personified. The following day they spot a ‘Dog Lost’ poster and take Fluffy home – but are not invited in, nor particularly noticed.

This is a debut picture book and it packs a punch from the outset. The illustrations demonstrate clearly the attitude of so many towards people who are homeless, as well as showing the terror and fear of being lost in a city. No-one makes eye-contact with Andy’s ‘Dad’ as he sits busking on the pavement; the pages where Fluffy is lost and frightened are monochrome, in stark contrast to the bright and cheerful images throughout the rest of the text; Lilly’s mum focuses on the dog and not Andy’s human when Fluffy is returned. There is a sharp contrast on the penultimate pages where Lilly’s mum is taking coffee to Andy’s owner and suddenly the crowd pays attention: eye contact at last. It is all perfectly delineated. As a deft and sure-footed way to ask us all to re-evaluate our perception of homelessness, it works perfectly. It is never preachy, but the message is clear. I look forward to further work from a perceptive and talented author/illustrator.