Isabelle Duff and Susannah Crispe – Cookie

EK Books, Australia, 2021

This gentle book draws our attention to the issue of childhood depression and its effect on the whole family. The story is told in the voice of Cookie, a dog who comes into the life of Girl, a child who is often sad.

Isabelle Duff and Susannah Crispe talk about Cookie

Cookie is a Border Collie, a breed noted for their energy and intelligence. In this case, great emotional intelligence is shown by Cookie, who knows just what to do to help Girl when she wants to wander happily in Nature and equally when she needs to curl up by herself in bed.

The story develops in a manner which makes the serious theme accessible to children of a young age, without making it all too grim. The daily activities of a normal family are at the centre of the tale, their interactions, their laughs and irritations. All we have to do is look at the brother, whose name is understood by Cookie to be Stoppit, to confirm that this is a well observed, sometimes quietly humorous and intimate look at family life.

Girl’s happiness and sadness seep into the welfare of her whole family and so does the beneficial effect of Cookie’s friendship with her. The healing capacity of such a relationship and the curious capacity of our animal friends to understand and respond to our moods and needs is a large part of the magic of this beautiful picture book.

Cookie has been sensitively illustrated by Susannah Crispe in a light and cheery style. There are lots of bugs and flowers, moments of exploration and moments of quiet communion between Girl and Cookie. The palette is a clever mix of pastels and brights, perfectly married with the text as we travel the emotional ups and downs of this little girl.

It is important that children hear these stories which normalise the gamut of human emotions. It’s refreshing to see such weighty matters brought into the language and understanding of the child. This book will be one parents and children can share to engender assurance that feelings are okay, and which teachers or young children will be able to use as a discussion starter in classrooms.

This is the kind of love story we are all seeking in COVID times, but it’s as apt in all times. Girl and Cookie convince us that love can conquer all as we are happily beguiled by this innocent intimacy.

Thank you to EK for providing an advance copy and to Isabelle and Susannah for sharing your thoughts with me about the making of this fine book.