HarperCollins, 2019. Hardcover Picture book, 32 pp.
Told in rhyme, Odd Dog Out is a story of, well, an odd dog who decides maybe she’ll try to find a place where she will fit in. And she will…but there are very nice twists just the same.
It isn’t just that she’s looks odd against the uniformed crowds of conformity. She approaches things differently, whether its flying, playing ball, or playing with the orchestra:
“It’s very sad
but this small dog
does not fit in.”
Her long journey takes her to Doggywood where we’ll be quick to notice how well she will fit in. And she will, but someone else doesn’t. She feels empathetic, approaching the odd dog out to tell them they’re not alone, “I feel for you. I once was an outsider too.” This where an unexpected lesson comes in…and one of tremendous value. This dog doesn’t feel like an outsider. They just love standing out from the crowd. “Stand tall. Be proud.”
“That dog is right.
It’s plain to see
there’s nothing wrong
with being me.”
She returns home. And guess what?! The other dogs are glad she’s back! Scanning the pages were already amusing, but now there are more little touches of difference to spy. The other dogs, missing their Odd Dog Out, made them appreciate difference. They’ve begun to look and act different in their own way.
I love that our Odd Dog Out didn’t have to really leave her home to find acceptance; that she could be herself where she is.
The words and illustrations are playful: ‘sad violin’; the sequence of dogs as swimmer, sailor, soldier, and scout; the yellow submarine; the different sports and modes of transportation. Biddulph sets up a culture of a place (that will feel familiar to older readers) and in doing so, it doesn’t criticize the masses for all looking alike. You can imagine them being comfortable, or that it makes sense to them. You can also imagine how our protagonist must feel; and then how much better she feels upon returning and seeing that her willingness to be herself inspired others to perhaps explore ideas of being different—all while being home. I mean, the punk dog is awesome. And the one that channels Coco Chanel?
The final double-spread of dogs are silly and fun, but do not miss that particularly sweet final page. Odd Dog Out is an entertaining story with an unexpectedly strong message of pride, love and community. It’s one you’ll not want to miss out on. Really, don’t be the odd one out this time and not read this picture book.
After taking the world by storm with his first two picture books, Rob Biddulph decided to blaze his own trail and is now a full-time author and illustrator. When not working doggedly on creating his characters, he makes up stories for his three daughters and draws pictures to go with them. He lives and works in London, and his very first book, Blown Away, won the Waterstones Children’s Book Prize.