'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Wednesday 7 April 2021

Guest Post: Liz Ledden on Walking Your Human

We are beyond excited to invite picture book author, Liz Ledden to a special Q & A today to get behind the scenes of her latest publication, Walking Your Human released in February. After discovering more about that incredible connection many of us develop with our canine chums, pop back this afternoon for Sarah's review of this hilarious hound-inspired tail, er tale!

Can you tell us about your new picture book, Walking Your Human?
Walking Your Human is essentially a dogs’ own guide to all the best things to do on a walk. The dogs in the story are sure they have humans all figured out, from how to tell if they want to be taken out in the first place, to the best places to cool down, take in amazing views and even score some snacks. It features super fun illustrations by Gabriella Petruso that add a whole lot of extra humour to the text (and some added insight into these pooches delusional thought processes!).

What is it about the human/dog relationship that’s so special?
Dogs have so much personality, and they definitely have emotions! I think in this way they’re a lot like humans, so we have a special bond. Dogs are loyal and like companionship, they’re always by your side, and have a lot of love to give. I think this might be why we put up with any faults – dogs are pretty forgiveable!

What do you think kids will enjoy about your story?
I think they’ll enjoy the comical dogs and human characters in the story (which is all thanks to the illustrations!) plus the nonsensical, contradictory nature of the dogs’ instructions. The way the canine narrator sounds so sure of themselves about what humans like to do on walks (and how dogs should behave) would be funny to savvy kids. And the way it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of the dog/human relationship has that appeal of – oh, my dog does that!

Can you tell us about choosing to write from a different point of view?

We already have a bit of insight into the way humans think, whereas getting inside a pet’s head is a bit more unique and lends itself better to humour! If we heard from a human about walking their dog, it would be a little mundane or even a bit negative (I can’t believe we had to stop 68 times!). The dog’s point of view is sassy and overly cocky in that they totally think they know it all, which makes for a funnier reading experience. There’s a kind of optimism there that makes their behaviour so forgivable too. By doing things like dragging their human into the pond to cool down, they think they’re actually helping them out.

Besides all the crazy fun of walking (and its perils) are there are any other themes in the book?
Beyond the surface layer of dog shenanigans, there is an undercurrent of the mutual love affair dogs and their humans have. There’s a lot of putting up with each other’s habits and compromise, and even a few tender moments, like a bit of a ‘pause’ spread where the human and dog stop to appreciate a few finds in nature, amidst the chaos. I think the final spread with the dalmatian and human sharing a bed also highlights the love between dogs and humans, even if they can drive each other crazy at times. It reflects the parent/child dynamic too, as the dogs could just as easily be rambunctious toddlers or pre-schoolers.

Can you give us any insight into the illustrations? Like, are any of the dogs based on real canine companions?
There are a few real-life dogs dotted throughout! Gabriella Petruso has done a brilliant job of depicting a whole canine crew of different sizes and temperaments. Observant young readers might discover that some look a lot like their owners. Or is it the other way around?! I love that the humans and dogs’ lives are so entwined despite their wildly different ways of seeing the world. One of the spreads features a cocker spaniel and owner reflecting one of the illustrator’s close friends Shaun and his dog. The bearded collie on page 10 is the illustrator’s childhood dog Jasper, which is another nice touch. Then there’s also a scene with an older lady and a corgi (and a pigeon scenario that’s one of my favourites) - you can probably guess which famous corgi owner she had in mind! And Gabriella herself is the mum with the baby sling. I just love this, especially as she had a newborn baby while illustrating our book – no mean feat!

Does your own dog get up to similar shenanigans while walking you?
She does indeed. My little dog Frankie (a silky terrier crossed with who knows what – she looks a bit like a baby dingo) definitely walks me, not vice versa. She kind of decides which of our local parks we walk to and of course, has to stop at every opportunity. As you can imagine, this inspired a lot of the scenarios in the story! My dog has a wonderful habit of kicking dirt all over me, and weirdly does it a lot at the local street library. I think it’s some kind of protest that I’ve initiated the stop, this time!

Walking Your Human is written by Liz Ledden, illustrated by Gabriella Petruso and published by Larrikin House.

To find out more about Liz, visit: www.lizledden.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/liz_ledden

Twitter: www.twitter.com/liz_ledden

Facebook: www.facebook.com/LizLeddenAuthor

Podcast: www.onemorepagepodcast.com