REVIEW: When Billy was a Dog by Kirsty Murray and illustrated by Karen Blair

Published: 3rd June 2019

Publisher: Allen & Unwin

Pages: 32

Format: Hardback (borrowed from the library)

RRP: $24.99

5/5 Stars If you can’t have a puppy, maybe the next best thing is to be a puppy.

‘Can I please, please, please have a dog?’ asked Billy. ‘Would you walk it every day and wash it if it got dirty?’ ‘I would, I promise!’ said Billy. Billy wants a dog. He really really really wants one. Billy’s parents aren’t so sure. So one morning, Billy takes matters into his own paws.
When Billy Was A Dog is THE picture book for any dog lover out there.  It has also been shortlisted for this year’s CBCA Book of the Year: Early Childhood book week award for 2020.
Billy LOVES dogs. Actually, it’s probably more accurate to say he is obsessed with them. After pleading with his parents for a puppy of his own, Billy resorts to the big guns and devious a mischievous plan to become a dog for a day. Using childhood logic, Billy figures if he can show his parents he knows ALL about dogs and their habits, then surely they will let him get one?

What follows is a beautiful, somewhat hilarious, rollicking read of one small child turning himself into a dog for a day. Getting a puppy is a very serious matter, and thus Billy puts his whole heart put into the task. Dedicated beyond belief, Billy takes his food on the floor, sleeps at the end of his parent’s bed, plays with his neighbour’s dog Fluff, sniffs a fence or two, and even goes to the park as a puppy on his hands and knees to play fetch with his Dad.

I loved everything about this book. Although I’ve never acted as a dog for a full day like Billy to get his one true desire, I can relate to his longing to have a puppy of his own; I think a lot of kids can.

While Billy’s crazy escapades are likely to turn a few parents heads, I think this book is brilliant. It’s full of childhood shenanigans and family good fun that you can’t help but smile, and laugh behind your hand at in secret (don’t want the kiddies getting ideas after all).

Kirsty Murray’s text is simple, and to the point, relying heavily on dialogue between family members to tell her tale. There are a number of lines to each page (generally four-plus), meaning an adult will probably have to help some younger readers.

Karen Blair’s illustrations are perfect. Featuring strong black outline’s her watercolour images are bold, and lifelike as they document Billy’s adventures as a dog. Blair mixes up the illustrations, choosing to alternate between the various size of illustrations. We go from full double-page illustration spreads to comic-like windows, to smaller centred images and border-sized illustrations as well. There is one particular image of Billy sharing Fluff (his neighbour’s dogs)’s bed as the pair fall fast asleep that completely stole my heart, especially when combined with Murray’s narrative.

All in all, When Billy Was A Dog is an exceptional picture book; one totally deserving of its shortlisted place for Book of the Year: Early Childhood for the Children’s Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Book Week Awards 2020.  

To purchase a copy of, visit the following online retailers:



To learn more about Kristy Murray, visit the following social media pages:

AUTHOR WEBSITE | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | PINTEREST


To learn more about Karen Blair, visit the following social media pages:


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