Saturday, March 28, 2009

Book Review: Kate and Gin

The latest title to join my collection of dog-related books is 'Kate and Gin'. Many Brits will recognise the names from the UK talent show, Britain's Got Talent, where Kate and her Border Collie, Gin, wowed the audience and the judges with their doggy-dancing skills. Sadly, as good as the dancing skills may have been, the ability to author a worthwhile book is sadly lacking. The problems start right at the front cover and continue to the very last page. Let's start at the front cover:

LearN to DaNCe aND
DO tRiCKS WitH Kate aND GiN
StaRs Of

Yes, it really is written like that. Clearly, Britain doesn't have a talent for grammar or presentation. I don't much care for the style of the London 2012 Olympics logo either, but I'm assured that it is all the rage. So I'm happy to put my lack of appreciation for this particular style of typography down to my age or lack of good taste.

Don't get me wrong, after spending £9.99 (reduced from £12.99) on this title, I wanted to like it. I wanted to learn something from it, no matter how small. The reality is that I didn't. Aside from the book being poorly designed from cover to cover, it is so lacking in worthy content that even the slightest of breezes would send it wafting away.

A major criticism has to be levied at the colour photography; it's just awful throughout the entire book. Aside from the photographer being seemingly unable to get the subject to relax enough for her to ever look as though she's enjoying the experience, it's just poor quality, particularly when you compare it to titles such as '101 Dog Tricks' by Kyra Sundance, in which the photography really sells the book. The photos in Kate and Gin are dull, grainy, and often lacking in any sparkle or contrast. In many of the photos, the majority of the Border Collie seems to consist of just one big black shape with no muscle or definition. I know from personal experience that it's not easy to photograph black dogs, but from a professional photographer, I'm sure that more effort could be made.

The second criticism is of the page layout and design. Almost each page has a seemingly random and unexplainable mottled design running though it. It was perhaps added to make the content appear more exciting (perhaps to compensate for the lack of excitement shown by Kate in the photos) but it ends up just being supremely distracting and even a little irritating in places.

My final criticism is aimed squarely at the content. It's just too light. The publishers seem to acknowledge this too by having entire double pages of the dog, Gin, anthropomorphically writing her thoughts. I can't begin to tell you how irritated I got, having paid £10 to read the words of a dog so frequently. Perhaps if I was twelve I may have appreciated this a little more. As a forty year old, it was completely wasted abd unappreciated.

If you omit the basic obedience exercises, there are about 15 moves that Kate attempts to teach. Again, the minimum of effort seems to have been put into this area too. For example, in teaching one trick, you are advised: 'Throw one of your dog's favourite toys. He will most likely run to pick it up.' So what if my dog doesn't? What then? Again, this is where the book falls over completely when compared to titles from more confident, experienced, and able authors. There seems to be a lot of assumption from Kate that all dogs are like her own dog, Gin. The reality is that they are not, and this needs to be considered in such how-to books if they are to be worthy of their shelf space.

It may be that this book is aimed at children (though there is no notice of that) and if that is the case then many of my criticisms could be easily ignored. However, for an adult who is looking to teach their dog anywhere near to the level that they might have seen Kate and Gin perform, it is next to useless, and far too expensive for what it provides.

The book feels cheap from cover to cover and I suspect that there was a rush to capitalise on the Britain's Got Talent appearance. Like many of the talents on this show, I felt that this book was far more about turning a profit for the creators than giving the author any degree of respect or professionalism. Extremely disappointing book that I just can't recommend on any level, even to children.

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