Brilliant

A Black Dog, depression, hangs over Dublin as recession bites – and only children can stop it. Uncle Ben has just lost his job and his house, and has moved in with Gloria and Raymonds’ parents. The children love Uncle Ben, and decide to help him to get rid of the Black Dog and recover Dublin’s funny bone. Slipping out of the house one night they chase the dog across Dublin, through the Phoenix Park, across the Zoo, past the Spire and out as far as Dublin Bay (the reader can follow their route on the endpapers of this nicely produced book), collecting an army of kids on the way.  The only thing the Dog seems scared of is the word ‘brilliant’, a word Doyle tells us in a four-page riff, has always been Dublin’s favourite word for all occasions.  Whenever the children use it, it fills the air with a gentle, yellow light. The final showdown comes at Clontarf: another great battle. Despite the Dog’s terrifying attempts to undermine them and make them feel useless, the children heroically attack it, using laughter and the word ‘brilliant’ until it disappears. Although people still feel depressed sometimes, Dublin has been saved.

Chris Judge’s comic black-and-white illustrations are scattered throughout the book, complementing the humour of Doyle’s Dublin dialogue. The human characters are believable, although the situation is fantastic. Talking dogs, seagulls and other animals play their part. But there is a very slow run-up to the action and, although the final showdown with the Black Dog is exciting and elicits much bravery from the children, it takes a long time to come.