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Poems and Teen Voices

by Joyce Sidman & photographed by Doug Mindell

Age Range: 12 & up

Pub Date: March 24th, 2003
ISBN: 0-618-17497-4
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

This unabashed collection joins Sidman’s (Eureka!, not reviewed, etc.) verse with new-to-children’s-books Mindell’s photographs and essays from teens to celebrate the wonders of all things canine. Divided into thematic chapters under the headings “Awakening,” “Tag,” “Understanding,” and “Happiness,” the writings explore the relationship between dog and human and seek to plumb the depths of doggy psychology: “Watching you / greet strangers / is like watching a diver / spring off the board / humbly and with grace / trusting the blue air / and the depths / of love.” For the most part, the verse avoids the trap of mawkish sentiment, treating with humor such canine epiphanies as a roll in a skunk, and moving at times into inspiration, as with “Dog and Squirrel: Steps in a Flirtation,” and the comparison of human to dog “Noses”: “Mine / is an afterthought, / a molehill, / a period between two sentences of eyes. / Yours / is the main event: / a long, elegant, / labyrinthine / echo chamber of smell.” The teen offerings do not fair quite so well, often and unsurprisingly showing a beginner’s tendency to use stilted syntax and unnecessary three-dollar words. They nevertheless are clearly written from the heart (and are frequently accompanied by photos of their beloved subjects) and can serve to inspire teen readers to try their own hands. The professional photographs frequently display an annoying tendency toward artistic blurriness, but by and large suit the worshipful mood of the volume. As a whole, dog lovers will likely lap it up eagerly, budding writers will snuffle it with interest, and teens who combine the two tendencies might even roll ecstatically. (Poetry/essays. 12+)