difficult life seasons can still be filled with love and joy

by Barbara Shook Hazen, pictures by Trina Schart Hyman - Puffin Books, originally Penguin Books Australia, 1983
ages about 4 to 12 years and grownups / emotional resilience, heartwarmers, read-it-before-you-need-it, s.o.s.e.

‘Tight times’ is the reason the serious little fellow telling this story can’t get a dog.

And that's not the only problem. No roast beef on Sunday, no trips to the lake and big-box cereal are all the result of tight times.

Then Dad loses something: his job. And times get tighter and tougher. 

While Mum and Dad talk, the little storyteller is sent to sit on the stoop of his building and while he is there he hears a stray kitten which a generous passer-by says he can keep. Mum and Dad agree and the cat is named “Dog” – it turns out to be a great cat!

Our daughter Louisa once had a chicken named Dog for much the same reasons. I suspect there are an awful lot of pets named Dog around the place during tight times. And it’s that connection to real life and to the way a child’s mind works that make this such a beautiful little book. 

Tight Times is the story of a lovely and ordinary family living in the city and struggling through a difficult time.

Changes have been made and more will come, but there’s delightful reassurance in the page where Mum and Dad hug their child and weep together.

And, in spite of the obvious troubles, this is not a sad book. Instead, it’s affirming, reassuring and peaceful, with a dose of humour thrown in for good measure – as it always should be.


Set in the late 70’s or early 80’s there are bits and pieces in the illustrations that will appeal to parents and grandparents of a certain age, but there’s no distancing from life as it is lived now. The illustrations are all black and white line drawings and they're beautiful. There’s stress drawn into the faces of Mum and Dad and innocence in the little boy’s face - and the everyday clutter of life that surrounds them makes them very real and accessible.

I really love how the parents make room for an extra mouth (albeit a little one) because they see the need for this simple pleasure even in tight times. It's good to read this book:

when times are tight – it helps to know you’re not alone!

when times are tough – when money may not be tight but when there is pressure and stress on the family, this is a lovely reminder of what’s important

in affluent times – so that money doesn’t become the defining factor in life

in entitled times – when a child starts to feel that the riches of life are a given or are somehow deserved

in pet-begging times – to remind how very lucky it is to be a pet owner.

And any times. Because it’s a book with enough humour and insight into the funny way this little boy’s mind works, it's appealing any time at all.

You can buy Tight Times via these direct links: Amazon - Book Depository - Booktopia