The story is set in a bustling city full of Daschunds, who all look the same and act the same, at work and at play. All except one, our protagonist and hero, who ‘dances to a different beat’. She likes to do things her own way, whether it’s her choice of transport (a bike instead of a car), sporting techniques (throwing rather than kicking the ball), choice of musical instrument (electric guitar rather than violin). Her distinctive woolly hat and long stripy scarf ensure she never blends in with the crowd. In the middle of the story, the reader is suddenly made aware that ‘not fitting in’ really does upset her, and she tearfully decides to leave the city. After much walking, she happens upon the city of Doggywood, where she is surprised to find she DOES fit in – every dog looks and acts just like her. All, that is, except one: another ‘Odd Dog Out’. She is keen to sympathise with this outsider, but he tells her she has got it all wrong. He LOVES to stand out from the crowd, and despite his differences, still feels like he belongs. The turning point in the story arrives – the other odd dog encourages her to be proud of her differences – and she realises that it’s absolutely fine to be herself. Off she goes towards home, and arrives to a hero’s welcome. They’ve missed their Odd Dog Out, and this has made them realise that ‘being different is really great’, in fact, some are inspired to behave and dress differently themselves.
This appealing and witty picture book has a very important central message for children: you don't have to be like everybody else - be who YOU are.
Rob Biddulph's illustrations are a real delight, with lots of details to pore over. Children will enjoy finding the 'odd dog' in the pictures and 'spotting her differences'.
Bibliotherapy: Understanding, Guidance and Positive Messages
- It can be really upsetting for a child who feels like they don’t fit in with the crowd
- It takes a lot of confidence and high self-esteem to ‘go against the grain’ by showing your differences.
- Everyone is different, and those differences should be accepted and celebrated: you don’t have to look or act the same as everyone else
- It is good to stand tall and be proud of yourself
- Your differences are an innate part of you and you shouldn’t try to hide them in order to fit in
- If you have the courage to show and be proud of your differences, you may in turn encourage other people to show theirs.
- It takes a lot of CONFIDENCE to show and celebrate the things about you that are unconventional
- The dogs in the city showed KINDNESS and ACCEPTANCE towards the ‘odd dog’ at the end of the story
- Not only does our hero realise she likes being different, but she is accepted for what she is.
- She inspires others to show their differences
- How do you think the ‘odd dog’ felt when she left the city?
- Encourage the child to think about their friends and/or family: what things about them are the same, and what things are different? How would they feel if everyone was the same?
- What does ‘blaze a trail’ mean? Can you think of characters in your favourite films and books that do this?
- Find some pictures of different types of dog breeds and draw some in different clothes, doing various activities.
- Organise a pretend picnic for a variety of different stuffed toys/dolls. Encourage your child to role play with the toys and help him/her to chat in a positive way about their differences.
The story doesn't feature any teasing, bullying or animosity - the 'odd dog out' is aware of how different she is, but the other dogs do not provoke or criticise her for being different, or even point those differences out. When she returns from her time away, she is greeted warmly, and she is told how much she has been missed. If a child has been experiencing teasing or bullying because of their differences, they may feel the positive and supportive community in the story doesn't reflect their own experience. This is something that a parent may wish to chat about after reading the book. The 'blaze a trail' and 'be who you are' messages in the book are important and valid ones, however, it's worth keeping sight of just how challenging it is for a very young child, whose emotional intelligence is a long way from being fully developed, to not just follow the crowd.