'The Great Escape - Illustrated!' is a children’s book which stands out through its humour and sense of character.
First in the series about Commander Rocky and his Organisation, a secret pack who rescue and care for ill-treated dogs, it features silly Astro, a dog who can’t see how lucky he actually is. Astro learns through working with a cast of characters including technologically-minded Hans, a Dachshund, and Digger (whose name gives away his role in the story) that he isn’t really a prisoner as he claims, but a much more fortunate dog than those the Organisation is called on to save from neglect.
Astro's adventure moves on swiftly and involves a sinister dog processing centre, as well as the Organisation’s feline enemies.
Well-equipped and resourceful though the Organisation may be, its members don’t abandon their canine natures. For example, a microchipped dog can always get in touch with the Organisation by turning round and round and dropping like a stone in its basket, which activates a hologram.
This is typical of Susan Day’s humour, which is clearly based on close observation of dogs and which doesn’t avoid a serious message about dogs’ need for a loving home and companionship.
'The Visitor' is a beautifully structured story about human need, taking its occasion from a daughter's regular visits to her demented mother in a care home. Wendy Beach captures the soulless misery of that kind of existence: wretched food that has to be fed 'half a teaspoonfull at a time', the endless turnover of staff, the hoists to get into bed, the irony of a home called 'Safe Harbour' while the mother herself must be seen by the narrator as 'driftwood', 'an anchorless vessel.' But the daughter's repeated resolve, in the face of her mother's painful lack of recognition, is quietly moving: 'I will come back tomorrow'. Read this story for its sensitivity, its deft language, its fine shape and imagery, and for its understanding of the community of need between the mother and daughter, where we ultimately learn how different and how similar are the things they both want.