Just Imagine

Black Dog

About the Author/Illustrator

Levi Pinfold has worked as an author and illustrator since graduating from University College Falmouth. He paints with watercolour and gouache, creating imagery from imagination and memory. His debut book, The Django, won a Booktrust Early Years Award. Michael Foreman described it as, “A virtuoso display of real drawing”. Black Dog was the 2013 Greenaway Medal Winner and the Horn Book Honor Winner.

About the Book

One by one the Hope family see the Black Dog outside their house and attempt to shut it out. Only Small, the youngest member of the family, is able to confront it. This multi-layered picture book has rich and detailed illustrations which support newly independent readers in their interpretation of the story. The theme of overcoming fears is perfect for this age group and ‘Black Dog’ is an ideal choice for guided reading.

Before Reading

Display the word ‘fear’ and ask the children to write down something that they are afraid of. Can they think of something they were afraid of once but no longer are? Was there anything in particular that stopped them being afraid?


Give pairs of children a set of word cards with the following words on:

  • nervous
  • anxious
  • jittery
  • panic-stricken
  • dread
  • concerned

Now ask them to put the in order from the word which is associated with the least scary to the most. How could these feelings be shown using expression on faces and types of behaviour? Children could act out a feeling and the rest of the group could guess which word they are showing.

Spend some time looking at the front cover and the children’s first impressions.

  • Jot down ideas using post it notes or a photocopy of the cover.
  • You might focus on different elements such as the house and it’s position and shape. A
  • lso the colour of the child’s coat and what yellow symbolises to them.
  • Look too at the size of the paw print and who it might belong to.


During Reading

First Spread

Before reading the text, explore the illustration on the right by describing everything that you notice happening.

Hold a quescussion using the opening page.

  • The children call out questions, which you write down without comment.
  • Once they ask a question, they may not ask another question for three turns.
  • Statements are not allowed.
  • If someone makes a statement, the whole group shouts ‘statement’ and it must be re-phrased as a question.
  • You may need to make suggestions to begin with but the children will quickly pick up the idea.

Second Spread

In pairs, act out the scene between Mr and Mrs Hope using the exact words from the book.

Third Spread

  • Are there any patterns that you notice as the story progresses?
  • Which of the characters would you be, if you were in this book?

Fourth Spread: Maurice

What does Maurice’s bedroom tell you about him?

  • Making inferences: Look carefully at all the different objects in his room. Do they give any clues to his personality.

Fifth Spread: Small

Small is the only member of the Hope family who is happy to go outside and not hide from the dog.

  • Would you describe Small as brave or foolish in this situation?
  • Imagine you can enter the scene. What would you tell Small to do?

Sixth Spread: Black Dog had meets Small

Does the dog look frightening in this spread?

  • The dog’s eyes are very expressive. How has the illustrator painted them?

After Reading

Points for discussion

  • Does the story remind you of any others where the youngest or weakest character save the day?
  • Where and when do you think this story is set?
  • Would the dog have been as frightening if it was a different colour?
  • What do you do when you are afraid of something?
  • Was Small brave or foolhardy to go outside?
  • Do you notice anything interesting about the names of the characters?

Different Viewpoints

The members of the Hope family react in different ways when they see the Black Dog. Choose one character (not Small) and write a diary entry for them about the day.

Dealing with fears

Why is the smallest and youngest member of the family the least afraid?

Look back at the advice given to each member of the family about the dog:

  • Don’t go outside.
  • Turn out the lights so it doesn’t know we’re here.
  • Close the curtains so it can’t see us.
  • Hide under the covers.

Can the children make links to their own experiences and talk about a time when they felt like doing one of these things? What is the best way of dealing with fear?

If you liked this book, you might enjoy…

Lemony Snicket The Dark

Emily Gravett Little Mouses Book of Big Fears