Space Dog by Mini Grey: Out of this world playfulness!

posted in: Mini Grey | 3

spacedogcoverOut in the depths of the Spooniverse Space Dog is getting read to return home following a long mission sorting out planetary problems in the Dairy Quadrant. Just as he starts to unwind a distress call comes through on his Laser Display Screen. Without a moment’s hesitation our super hero, Space Dog, jumps to and rescues the occupant of a flying saucer drowning in an thick ocean of cream on a nearby planet. But what’s this?

It turns out he’s saved his sworn enemy: Astrocat.

Uh-Oh.

Will they be able to put aside their differences as another cry for help comes in over the space ship tannoy? Will teamwork triumph as they face terror together?

Space Dog by Mini Grey is an anarchic, adrenalin-packed adventure of The Highest Order. Utterly and joyously playful, wildly and lavishly imaginative, this dynamic and delightful journey exploring space and friendship is sublime.

Grey’s witty language, from the hilarious exclamations made by Space Dog (“Thundering milkswamps!”, “Shivering Stilton!”) to the deliciously outlandish names of rare alien life forms (the Cruets of West Cutlery, the Fruitons of Crumble Major) has had us all giggling time and again, even on the 15th reading of Space Dog. Her pacing is timed to perfection, with dramatic stretches interspersed with moments of great relief and humour, drawing readers, listeners, grown-ups, children ever more closely in to Grey’s fantastic, phenomenal universe Spooniverse.

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Grey’s illustrations are equally packed with panache. From the detailing given to brand labels and packaging (whether on space food or game boxes) to her powerful use of suggestion (look out for what is almost missing off the page on the spread immediately before Space Dog and Astrocat land on Cheesoid 12, or the shadow redolent with threat as they turn to leave the Cheesy planet), Grey’s illustrations richly illuminate the world she has built to share with us, giving enormous pleasure every time they are returned to.

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Although there are echoes of super hero comic strips and silent movies with their intertitles, dramatic soundtracks and expressive emotions theatrically mimed, Mini Grey’s visual and verbal style is truly unique. Spirited and inventive, Space Dog is an outstanding book and fortunately you can find it right here right now in our very own universe.

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Every single page turn of Space Dog was met with “Mummy, can we do that??!!”, whether it was making a planet out of cereal packets, coming up with a recipe for supper based on the Spaghetti Entity in the Pastaroid Belt, designing our own version of Dogopoly, rustling up Astrocat’s cake, making spewing tomato ketchup volcanoes, or playing with fondue. In the end we settled for making spaceships for the characters in the book, and flying them over our patio.

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Using this fantastic tutorial from one of my favourite library blogs as a starting point, we created spaceships using paperplates, plastic cups and stickers. Where Pop Goes the Page used toilet cardboard rolls, we used yoghurt pots instead, and aliens were replaced by Space Dog and other astonauts cut out from print-offs of these drawing pages created by Mini Grey.

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We dressed up as astronauts ourselves, making space suits from disposable painting overalls, decorated with electrical tape and completed with control panels from cardboard.

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Once appropriately attired we were ready to launch our space ships. Unlike Pop Goes the Page we used nylon bead thread rather than wire to make a zip line, partly because this is what we had to hand, but also because it’s extremely smooth and there are no issues with kinking. One end was tied to the bathroom window, the other to the end of the washing line in the garden.

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Soon spaceships were zooming all over our patio…

Later we turned our hand to making hats for a fruit and vegetable parade, inspired by the hat competition which Space Dog has to judge:

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We used origami hat tutorials to come up with these millinery masterpieces, including this army cap and samurai helmet with plenty more hat ideas here.

Whilst making our spaceships and competition-winning hats we listened to:

  • The bilingual song Los Planetas by Nathalia
  • Cheese Please by Chris Stapleton – essential listening for any cheese lover 🙂
  • Sputniks and Mutniks by Ray Anderson & The Home Folks. I discovered this thanks to this interesting NPR article, Sputniks in Space.


    Other activities you could try inspired by Space Dog include:

  • Making space ships big enough for kids (and their grownups?) to fit in. A large cardboard box, a roll of tin foil and some plastic lids or moulded plastic from biscuit boxes is all you need to get you started. (Here’s one we made earlier).
  • Playing with your food. Mini is just so inventive when it comes to playing with food, but if you want even more ideas, you could take a look at Carl Warner’s A World of Food or The Art of Clean Up by Ursus Wehrli. Both of these books are massive hits with my kids.
  • Reading the extraordinary graphic novel Laika by Nick Abadzis. This is more for us grown ups than the kids (though my 10 year old has read it) but I can’t resist recommending it whilst I’ve got a chance.

  • Would you like to go into space if you had the chance?

    Disclosure: I was sent a free review copy of Space Dog by the book’s publisher.

    3 Responses

    1. SIMONE FRASER

      Rich illustrations and rich play. Thanks for sharing this!

    2. […] decided to base the workshop on a book by one of their featured illustrators, Mini Grey. Her book, Space Dog, was a hugely successful start to the workshop, with the children fascinated by her detailed […]

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