cover image Little Dog Poems

Little Dog Poems

Kristine O'Connell George. Clarion Books, $13 (40pp) ISBN 978-0-395-82266-1

Experienced dog owners will recognize the familiar behavior of a winsome brown puppy as it attacks the ""enemy"" vacuum cleaner until it ""stops growling,"" or as it barks until its owner ""witness[es]/ the triumph--/ one cornered beetle."" Otani's (Chibi: A True Story from Japan) skillful watercolors of the girl and her fluff of a dog are sweetly fetching, whether the protagonist is scolding Little Dog for chewing her new green socks or whether she is ""having accidents"" with her popcorn so Little Dog can share her treat. Otani's familiarity with the exuberance and joy of puppies and children shines through her delicate watercolors, and she depicts their pounces and feints, cuddles and anticipation, with a deft sense of line. George's text, however, is disappointingly slight, especially considering the dexterity of her The Great Frog Race and Other Poems. Largely devoid of the tools of poetry--metaphor, rhythm, form, imagery, clever word play--these entries seem like a series of child-size sentences broken into short line lengths. ""Cozy,"" for example, consists entirely of the following lackluster description: ""Little Dog tugs/ an enormous pillow/ all the way across the room/ to sit beside the fire/ with me."" Occasionally George strikes a resonant chord, as in ""Birthday"": ""Only someone/ who loves Little Dog/ very much/ would bake/ birthday cookies/ with liver powder."" Despite Otani's engaging and inventive illustrations, this depiction of a girl and her dog seems uninspired. Ages 4-8. (Mar.)