Tell Tail by C.K Smouha and Illustrated by Katie Brosnan

The lovely folk at Cicada frequently send me surprise children’s books in return for honest reviews and I’m ashamed to sat that Tell Tail by C.K Smouha and illustrated by Katie Brosnan is one such book that has been languishing on my TBR for some months. Today, however, I’m finally sharing my review.

Tell Tail was published by Cicada in November 2020 and is available for purchase here.

Tell Tail

Dex is a Staffie with an unruly tail. All the other members of Dex’s family are tough as nails, but Dex is cut from a different cloth. He likes to chat and play, and when he does, his tail wags wildly. When he’s sad, his tail tucks under. Everyone can see exactly how he’s feeling. The rest of Dex’s family find it very embarrassing, so Dex tries to rein his tail in – to no avail.

One day at the park, Dex is doing his best to control his tail when a big red dog called Bailey bounds up to him. Bailey has the waggiest, most ridiculous tail Dex has ever seen. They have a marvellous time playing, until Dex catches sight of his dad’s disapproving face.

Dex runs and runs and runs, until he stops caring – about his tail – about anything. When Dad finds him, his tail is completely still. It doesn’t wag, it doesn’t tuck under. It’s just there. After a couple weeks, Dad starts to feel uncomfortable. What could be wrong with Dex? Dad and Dex go back to the park, where with the help of Bailey, they rediscover the joys of self expression.

My Review of Tell Tail

Dex’s tail gets him into trouble.

The physical qualities of Tell Tail are as good as I’ve come to expect with books from this publisher. The hard cover is robust and durable and the book itself of a perfect size for sharing with groups of children as well as individuals. I liked the naïve, slightly sketchy quality of the illustrations by Katie Brosnan too as she conveys the emotions and attitudes of Dex and his family as well as Bailey’s exuberance so effectively with just a few brush strokes.

The story in Tell Tail is well designed with a really good balance of text to illustration and sufficient length to make it quick enough to read and retain a child’s attention, but with enough depth and variety to make it a story that can be returned to on several occasions. The dogs digging, running and fighting are all concept that are familiar to children so that they can identify with canine behaviour as well as, perhaps, their own experiences.

However, it’s the messages underpinning the action in Tell Tail that make it such a success. This is a story about being true to yourself as Dex comes to terms with his unruly tail, about realising that difference is not a negative thing and about being aware how your attitude to another person – in the way Dad makes Dex control his tail – can affect their happiness and well-being. There’s so much here to discuss with children and gently teach them about their place in the world. I’m sure Tell Tail will enhance the confidence of children who feel distanced from others and help them accept their own attributes.

Tell Tail is a lovely story. Tell Tail is perfect for adults and children alike, not least because it reminds us all of the joy we once knew as children and reminds us to embrace life and our physical attributes in order to have fun and enjoy ourselves.

About C.K. Smouha

C K Smouha is a television writer and author living in London. Her writing credits include Clique (BBC2) and Dates (Channel 4). She is also a children’s author whose previous books include Born Bad, Sock Story and Iced Out.

About Katie Brosnan

Katie Brosnan is a British author and illustrator who lives in Northamptonshire. She earned an MA with distinction in Children’s Book Illustration from the Cambridge School of Art, and also studied Fine Art at Nottingham Trent University. She was a UK winner of the International Picture This! award in 2018, and highly commended in the Macmillan Prize for Illustration in the same year.

Keith Among the Pigeons was her debut picturebook, published by Childs Play International in 2019. It was longlisted for the 2020 Klaus Flugge prize and selected for the UK Library Summer Reading Challenge. Her second book Gut Garden, a non fiction illustrated book was published by Cicada Books in 2019. It has been nominated for several awards including being shortlisted for The Royal Society’s Young People’s Book Prize 2020.

When she isn’t drawing or working on books, Katie helps to run workshops for children, gets involved in local wildlife projects and makes one-off ceramic characters.

For further information, follow Katie on Twitter @katiebdrawing or visit her website. You’ll also find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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