Grk and the Hot Dog Trail

20th October 2006 at 01:00
Grk and the Hot Dog Trail By Joshua Doder. Andersen Press pound;4.99

A New York cop called Andy Kielbasinski is a minor character in Joshua Doder's third novel about Tim and his dog grk (pronounced "gruk"), yet at one or two key points in the narrative the reader is made to see events through his eyes.

This is a technique used frequently in adult crime fiction. Its overuse in a children's book would risk breaking up the momentum of a story. Doder's judgment about just when to take the reader's attention away from Tim, his main character, is spot on, and one of the reasons why the series is enjoying such success.

Another reason is the way Doder has breathed new life into the classic ingredients of children's adventure writing. It was generally considered that the Blytonesque kids-and-dog-beat-the-baddies recipe was as relevant to contemporary children's books as Mrs Beeton is to the modern kitchen.

Until Doder showed that heroes don't have to be cut in the mould of super spies or SAS operatives.

Grk and the Pelotti Gang, the last tale, had an exotic setting. The new book, set in New York with a plot involving the theft of a sculpture by a hot-dog-selling art thief, is less about location, more about character, with Tim and grk taking central stage. Gr-eat stuff.

Michael Thorn is deputy head of Hawkes Farm primary school, Hailsham, East Sussex

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