Joyce Sidman, Author, Doug Mindell, Illustrator, Doug Mindell, Photographer
Joyce Sidman, Author, Doug Mindell, Illustrator, Doug Mindell, Photographer , photos by Doug Mindell. Houghton $15 (80p) ISBN 978-0-618-17497-3
Reviewed on: 03/10/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003

Like many of the canines to which it pays homage, this volume is something of a mixed breed. Sidman (Just Us Two: Poems About Animal Dads) presents her own dog-inspired poems, accompanying each with a black-and-white photo by Mindell, as well as brief essays by teens, who also supply black-and-white snapshots of their pets. But despite the apparent variety of voices, the work here occupies a narrow range of style and perspective. The teens offer predictably affectionate tributes to their dogs, who eat their owners' hair accessories or roll in foul-smelling matter but nevertheless embody unconditional love and even wisdom ("She's learned a life lesson that many of us have yet to learn: how to accept who she is," writes a 15-year-old). Sidman's approach is equally worshipful. The dog she addresses may baffle her with "this/ ecstasy of stink that has me/ retching but made you/ dive and roll, eyes closed in bliss," (from "Stink"), but as she says in the haiku "Understanding," "is often the only one/ who understands me." While some poems would stand well alone, they become tiresome in sequence as Sidman pens unironic paeans to a dog's ears, painfully revisits small injuries visited on her beloved and describes acute pain at separation. Mindell serves up artful views of dogs staring eloquently at the camera, dogs absorbed in play and dogs sleeping. Along with the handsome, spacious book design (two-color type treatments, coated white paper), these stylish photos deepen the reverential tone. Ages 10-up. (Mar.)

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