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image credit: Ziza S, cover Unmasking the Wolf

Pevensey Bay resident, Carolyn Little has passed Bay Life a copy of her book, Unmasking the Wolf.

The book has the hallmark of a classic read. We will see what the sales figures show in the coming months.

The book could be described as the Ladybird Book of the transmutation of the wolf over 15,000 years into the dog for first year undergraduates in the Biosciences.

The references in this slim volume at the back include Nagasawa et al Oxytocin-gaze positive lopp and the co-evolution of human dog bonds.

The book is unlikely to be a popular read to seven years olds at bedtime, but the story is  told well in annotated bite sized chunks. There is an appeal to a lay audience and dog lovers.

The skill in the book is the way in which each point about the transmutation of the wolf into the domesticated dog is bottled down to an academic summary and then told in a simple paragraph that communicate the essence of each point.

Try this paragraph for an elemental look at the wolf and the dog and the human on the question of vision.

Humans have evolved as a diurnal species whereas wolves hunt at night or early morning when the prey comes out to forage. Dogs have adapted to our daily rhythms but they are a nocturnal, crepuscular species and tend to be more active at these times. They do not see as well as us in low light but the tapetum, an extra layer of light reflective cells, is able to mirror light. Dogs’ eyes are adapted to detect movement and it is this that triggers the prey instinct. They are sensitive to a higher flicker rate than humans and this is why dogs don’t watch much television.

The book, which Carolyn told Bay Life took her a year to write, is a slim volume comprised at 56 pages, but big on the scope and range and understanding of the context of the 150,000 year journey from the wolf to the dog.

The paragraphs become a series of threads that string between the chapters, The Wolf in your Living Room, through to subjects like Instincts, Drives and Motivations of Wolves and Dogs, to Dogs Do Extraordinary Things.

This mix of academic titles and the kinds of title you might see in the Readers Digest is where the skill of the writer lies.

Ladybird Books in their format and visual identity hid the skill of academic writers who were employed, for example, to write the history sand science series.

The visual identity of this book echoes Ladybird Books, same size, giving that handy notebook sense.

The colour scheme chapter headings in an uppercase typerwriter font with the sub-heading strapped to each section is beautifully done.

There is subtlety and simplicity with the book. These are hard tricks to pull off without a lot of experience. Carolyn has been helped by Ziza S, also a Pevensey Bay resident, someone who has an international design and graphics background.

She is also the person who has illustrated each page with lovely pictures of dogs that appear right through the book

Each of the paragraphs that annotate each page break the structure into bite sized chunks that enable readers to browse, read the book at one stretch, or simply dip into the pages over time.

All of these techniques are apparently simple, but any book designer will tell you that they take a lifetime to learn. That is the reason that good book design techniques appear to be so simple.

As well as an appeal to bioscience undergraduates, this book will also appeal to anyone with an interest in understanding their dog, from teenagers, to Mums and Dads to families at home and grandads and grandmas.

Ladybird Books do indeed appear on the reading lists for undergraduates, particularly in science fields, because they have the power to condense some complex subjects into simple explanations that are accessible and easy to read.

Perhaps this book will follow the same path onto a undergraduate reading list one day.

This book is recommended as a stocking filler for every dog loving family this Christmas.

From the opening pullquote and picture, to the final thought, “The Dog Owners Prayer: Dear Lord, Please make me be the sort of person my dog thinks I am”,  this book is pure joy.

Already this book, a cross between a mini-treatise and a treat, is available from Waterstones: Unmasking the Wolf: How to Understand Your Dog (Paperback), £4:00.

This is an excellent book, crafted here in Pevensey Bay.

Simon Montgomery