It is an honour to kick off the blog tour today for the Federation of Children’s Book Groups Children’s Book Award, the only book award voted for entirely by children. I am especially delighted that I have been asked to host the first of the four books shortlisted for the Picture Book category, Perdu by Richard Jones. I first reviewed this gorgeous book back in 2020 and at the time thought this tender story of a little lost dog was a soothing book to read and a celebration of the power of kindness. The illustrations are beautiful with gentle colours and are a perfect match for the story. Richard Jones conveys Perdu’s emotions in the small but determined figure trotting along through the fields and in the droop of his head and tail in the city as he cowers after being shouted at. In addition to the small lost dog there are parallels to others who may be trying to find a place where they can belong, be that those displaced from their own countries or people struggling to fit in with others. Over the last couple of years its themes have become even more important to us all and I do think it is lovely that children have recognised that too.
I am delighted to welcome Richard Jones to the blog to tell us all a little about the inspiration for the story and what he hoped readers would take away from sharing the book.
Richard Jones – creator of Perdu
Perdu is a book about a little lost dog and his struggle to find a place in the world – a place to call home.
The theme of longing – longing for a safe place and a sense of belonging – is a universal one and as a basis for a story has been explored in children’s books many times with Paddington by Michael Bond my most loved. I adore the Paddington books; the joy he finds in the sights and sounds around him, his innocence and childlike positivity, but also his determination. My lost dog would view the world in a similar way, I decided. He would take on the search for a new home with optimism and hope. He would be displaced soul, a refugee of sorts, but strong and brave. His scarf would be his only possession, and he would treasure it.
His story emerged over a few months, taking on characteristics and personality from news stories and videos I read and watched.
The media at the time were revelling in imagery of people fleeing persecution and war. There were aid agencies, charities and inspirational individuals helping them too, of course, and it was these people and their kindness that suggested our little lost dog might actually have someone looking out for him on his journey. The character of the little girl with the red bobble hat would take on this role and Perdu would have a friend in the world, though for the sake of the story he might not know it until the end!
There’s a moment in the story when Perdu is scared away from a busy restaurant. In the hullabaloo of the chase, he loses his precious scarf and escapes into a park.
When it’s lost, Perdu feels like he’s lost everything. For him the scarf is a connection to his previous life and it means everything. So when the little girl finds it lying on the road and returns it to him, she is returning to him his sense of self, his status and worth. A small, kind gesture with wonderful consequences.
I chose to name him Perdu at the very beginning of the project. I made a list of a few words that might sound rounded and appealing to a child, but also mirror his story and see how they translated into different languages. Perdu (‘Lost’ in French), seemed to fit the little chap perfectly.
For many years I had my own Perdu sleeping besides my desk as I worked. Her name was Megan and she was a sort-of collie mixed with a kind-of whippet. We think she’d been a stray as a puppy before moving between rescue centres and one or two families. She came to us one wet Sunday in 2007 and stayed until she died in 2016. She was sensitive, gentle, and a little bonkers. She was my best friend. A lot of her character is echoed in Perdu’s own and I’m proud and thankful I was the one to tie her scarf back on.
Thank you, Richard for this thoughtful insight and for sharing your artwork. I do love the photo of Megan!
The Children’s Book Award is the only national award voted for solely by children from start to finish. It is highly regarded by parents, teachers, librarians, publishers and children’s authors and illustrators as it represents the children’s choice. Thanks to the support of the publishers, around 800 new fiction titles are donated to be read and reviewed by local FCBG groups across the country every year. This year approx 50,000 total votes were cast, and we expect many thousands more to come in for the Top 10. At the end of each testing year, many of the books are donated to hospitals, women’s refuges, nurseries and disadvantaged schools by our groups.
There wasn’t an award in 2021 – the challenges of getting books out to the child judges in lockdowns meant the award did not run last year. Therefore, this year’s award celebrates the most popular books from 2020 and 2021 so no one misses out.
Don’t forget that voting opens soon and closes on 27th May so please keep an eye on the website for further details. Children have plenty of time to read the shortlisted books and vote for their favourite. The books can be purchased at a discounted price on the Heath Books website.
I would like to thank Richard Jones, Simon & Schuster and Erin Hamilton for their assistance in preparing this post. Please do follow the rest of the blogtour to find out about all the other great books shortlisted for this important award. I’m looking forward to finding out which books the children vote for!