SWOP The Satsuma-Sized Secret by Lucy Noguera

Ask anyone who has ever had a dog as a pet and they will tell you that they truly are your best friend, and that the memories you make with your dog are those you cherish always, often making you laugh and smile as you reflect on them. This book reflects this sentiment perfectly as it tells the story of Ernie and a tiny little dog he names Swop, and it is a title that a highly recommend for children moving on to chapter books from picture books, as they look to enjoy a story book with more depth and detail – especially as this book has a feel good vibe throughout, relatable characters and locations (home/school), and offers readers an unforgettable adventure alongside Ernie (and Swop).

As the story begins we are introduced to Ernie, and learn of his family and home life. His family have moved home, following the death of his dad, so that they are closer to their Nanny, and this leaves Ernie feeling unsettled, and unhappy about leaving the home he was happy in for some where new. Inside his new bedroom he starts the arduous task of unpacking, and trying to find comfort in the familiarity his toys and belongings offer. It is during this that Ernie hears quiet scuffling noises, and decides to investigate.

Readers will love what Ernie finds – a tiny satsuma sized dog that is adorable, friendly, and full of inquisitive energy too. Think Clifford the big red dog, except this dog is titchy tiny, and black and white in colouring too. That feel good, mutual love between dog and child, and positive energy is very much the same as what he know and love when we think of Clifford. What is not to love in the concept of this story? Readers aged 5-8 will thoroughly enjoy this book, and fall in love with little Swop. There is also a real need for more books beyond this title, and I really hope that this becomes a series, as I know readers will be hoping the same as they long for more of Swop and Ernie’s story.

Having become acquainted, and always wanting a dog of his own, Ernie keeps Swop a secret from his mum, sister and nan. It isn’t easy because Swop makes up for his size with boundless energy, but Ernie has a determination to look after the tiny animal, and keep him safe. He does a fabulous job, and his love for Swop is evident from the offset, and it makes Ernie such a relatable role model for readers, who would no doubt want to do the same as Ernie if they had this unbelievable opportunity.

It doesn’t become easy to keep Swop hidden and safe when the dog has snuck into Ernie’s school bag, on his first day at his new school, especially when Swop decides to go off exploring! That is when Ernie makes friends with Rafa, another young boy that learns about Swop, and promises to keep the dog a secret from others. Rafa is a loyal friend to Ernie, and invaluable in the chaos that ensues as Swop entertains himself by exploring the school environment.

Readers will love Swops antics, and the decision making Ernie has to make as he endeavours to get Swop safely back in his company, and Rafa is on hand at every step of the way. The drama that unfolds will have readers immersed from one chapter to the next, and ultimately hoping that Ernie is successful in his mission. This is quite the adventure to grasp readers imaginations with, and definitely one they will cherish having had the opportunity to enjoy.

As I conclude my right up of this book, which I know would be invaluable in school libraries and classroom reading corners alike, I wanted to finish on my final positive reflection of having read Swop the Satsuma-sized Secret, and that is the illustrations that adorn the pages throughout the book, bringing the respective scenes to life for readers to not only visually interpret the text, but also helping to immerse your imagination as you read. These illustrations are the work of Laura Ireland, and she is incredibly talented in complimenting the text with her contributions.

I love that the first few pages depict the characters within the book, giving an initial introduction to those that feature in the story, and enabling readers to refer back to it as the story develops, and more characters join in the adventure. The illustrations are large, break up the text to avoid readers becoming overwhelmed as they begin their journey on early chapter books, and most of all bring a heart warming feel, and an energetic vibe, to the characters and story, therefore truly doing Swop the Satuma-sized Secret the justice it deserves.

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