cover image My Life in Dog Years

My Life in Dog Years

Gary Paulsen. Delacorte Press Books for Young Readers, $15.95 (144pp) ISBN 978-0-385-32570-7

Here's a treat to make Paulsen fans sit up and beg for more: scenes of Paulsen's life viewed in terms of the dogs who graced them. Aficionados who have read Paulsen's other memoirs (Father Water, Mother Woods; Eastern Sun, Northern Moon) already know of the author's rough-and-tumble childhood as the son of alcoholics; readers of Winterdance already know of his devotion to the sled dogs who pulled him through the Iditarod. Although he returns to familiar territory here, his approach is new. Profiling such dogs as Dirk, who ""had Airedale crossed with hound crossed with alligator"" and who unfailingly protected him from hoodlums who routinely menaced him in his youth, he both reveals himself and pays vivid tribute to his canine companions. In deceptively casual prose, he writes of his own troubles matter-of- factly while wittily and affectionately enumerating his dogs' virtues. Not all the episodes are bleak, fortunately, and one of the most successful chapters describes the glee inspired by a particularly brilliant border collie. While most boy-and-dog accounts tend either toward the tearjerker or toward the consciously heartwarming, Paulsen's paean resonates with a robust appreciation of the species; his writing percolates with energetic love. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 10-up. (Feb.)