Of course, we have known for years that animals can understand us and some have even been able to communicate with us in simple ways – think Koko and signing. It would be truly presumptuous for humans to imagine that we are the only species capable of communication, however ‘speaking’ words has been somewhat more problematic, and for many, implausible.
When newly qualified speech therapist, Christina Hunger, and her partner, Jake, adopted their puppy, Stella, this highly skilled and intuitive young woman quickly noticed that the puppy displayed many similarities to the toddlers with whom she works, in what appeared to be attempts to communicate. Christina is a big advocate of AAC (Augmentative and Alternative Communication) devices to help her child clients become vocal and posited to friends and family that such a device might enable her puppy to ‘speak’ as well.
Stella’s journey from inquisitive and intelligent puppy with a load of personality is punctuated with one breakthrough after another as Christina introduces a purpose-devised method for Stella to know, understand, and contextualise not just single words but phrases. In addition to this being a memoir of the pair’s incredible narrative and an expansion of Christina’s sharing via her blog Hunger for Words, this volume provides a ‘how to’ guide for other dog owners who might want to explore their own pet’s potential for interactive speech.
This is a memoir filled with joy and love as well as its revolutionary and innovative premise and will have enormous appeal to every pooch owner who has ever talked to their fur-child with as much respect and affection as they would to their human family.
Highly recommended for all dog-lovers but also those who are interested in the whole process of acquisition of language.
When I took over the reins of my first school library Paul Jennings was the undisputed king of children’s books and those on our shelves were, in fact, not there very often! To say they were on high rotation through circulation is an understatement and there was a constant need to buy new copies as they became shabbier and shabbier. This wasn’t my first encounter with Paul’s genius though as I had been reading his stories aloud to my various classes for years and without fail, there would be paroxysms of laughter, sharp intakes of breath and gasping groans depending on the particular story.
And now this – a memoir which is achingly honest, often very moving while at other times extremely funny, as Paul peels back the layers of his multi-faceted life and reflects on his careers as teacher, lecturer, speech therapist, author, script writer as well as complex relationships with others and his struggle with depression. So deeply involved with his reflections was I that I read way past my regular ‘bedtime’ over several nights until I finished.
I love the way this is structured. With his typical skill Paul chooses not to tell his story in a linear chronological way but roams across various periods of time and even within these intersperses with additional anecdotes. Far from being disjointed this is almost like enjoying a conversation with him which makes for a truly engaging reading experience.
If you want to know more about the craft of writing, read this. If you want to know more about compassionate and empathetic teaching, read this. If you want to know more about living with mental health issues, read this. If you want to know more about making children laugh, cry and love books, read this. And most especially, if you want insight into this giant of children’s literature in Australia, read this.
What can I say? This is without doubt the best biographical book I’ve read in a long time about a person for whom I have the greatest admiration. I’ve never been in the right place at the right time to meet Paul but oh! how I would love to!
Highly recommended for all lovers of great Australian children’s literature and this acclaimed author.