The Detective Dog
Author: Julia Donaldson
Illustrator: Sara Ogilvie
ISBN: 9781250156761
Publisher: Henry Holt and Company
Age Range: 3-6
Grade Level: Preschool – 1

Amazon Synopsis

When Detective Dog Nell puts her nose to the task, there’s no mystery she can’t solve. Whether she’s tracking the missing shoe of her human, Peter, or locating some lost honeycomb, all Nell has to do is sniff, sniff, sniff and she’s hot on the trail.

Besides solving mysteries, there’s something else Nell loves―listening to children read. Every Monday, Peter takes her to school where children tell her stories.

One day, Nell and Peter arrive to find that all the books are gone. Who could have taken them? And why? There’s only one dog for the job, and Detective Dog Nell is ready to sniff out the thief!

My Review

The Story

The Detective Dog is a fun mystery for ages 3-6. There are so many things to appreciate about this story.  First, the rhyming is perfectly balanced, making it an easy story to read and enjoy. 

“Now, Nell did detection from Tuesday till Sunday
But did something totally different each Monday.
She found Peter’s bag and she tracked down her lead,
Then set off for school, where she heard children read.”

Nell – The Detective Dog and Bibliophile

I love that Nell does her detective work on Tuesdays through Sundays, finding missing socks and toys and such. Nells keen nose makes her a brilliant detective. But on Mondays she takes the day off to visit the school and listen to children read. This holds a good message for adults – Nell knows the importance of self-care by taking a day off!

Nell also loves the smell of a good book – like any proper bibliophile, and this story encourages an interest in books and reading and introduces the lending concept of the library to young readers – so fun!   

Who took all the books?

When Nell and her human, young Peter, arrive at school one Monday to find all the books missing, it’s time for Nell to put on her detective cap once again. Who took all the books? Nell is a delightful character, warm and fuzzy, while also smart and determined. Peter is the appropriate sidekick, helping Nell and guiding the other kids along as they uncover clues.

When she and Peter discover the book thief, they come up with the appropriate resolution without critical admonition of the crime, rather administering an emphasis on the solution.

The Illustrations

The illustrations are whimsical and invigorating.  The colors, the details, the overall displays of exuberance – they add depth to the story and are fun to follow, perfectly complementing the rhymes and the action.


Kids will have an exciting time following Nell and Peter as they solve the mystery of the missing books, all while learning about the wonderful world of reading, books and libraries.

About the Author

Julia Donaldson is a top selling author of children’s books with over 65 million books sold worldwide. Among her greatest successes are Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo and Stick Man (all illustrated by Axel Scheffler), What the Ladybird Heard (illustrated by Lydia Monks) and The Giant Jumperee (illustrated by Helen Oxenbury). Julia’s books have been translated into over 72 languages.

Julia lives in the UK with her husband Malcolm and divides her time between Sussex in the South and Edinburgh in Scotland. From 2011 to 2013, she was the UK Children’s Laureate. Julia writes fiction, poems, plays and songs, as well as picture books. The TV films of The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom have both been nominated for Oscars.

Review Copy

I obtained a copy of this book to review from my local library. I’m working my way through 500 picture books. Need a picture book review? Contact me!

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