Uncle Earl's Doggies by Walter J. Schenck Jr.

Uncle Earl's Doggies

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A lyrical ode to man’s best friend, complete with hand-drawn depictions of a wide range of breeds.

Schenck’s (Priests and Warriors, 2013) children’s book, written in tribute to the author’s late uncle Earl Langford, describes the canine kingdom from the perspective of the animals themselves, using “I” and “we” to trace their evolutionary heritage from wild animals to the domesticated creatures we recognize today. With illustrations drawn by Uncle Earl’s wife, Ethel Langford, the realistic renderings have captions with breed names and physical characteristics such as height and weight. Most depictions show dogs grouped by breed and in action, such as huskies and malamutes working as sled dogs in snowdrifts. The journey, written in poetic prose, weaves in elements of Uncle Earl’s life with dogs, especially related to hunting: Bird dogs flush out prey, retrievers fetch downed animals, terriers herd livestock, others even swim and nap with Uncle Earl. In the story’s insistent stanzas, the dogs' plea to humankind—dog owners, lovers and keepers—is to treat them well, play with them and love them. Implicit in this entreaty is that part of loving animals is respecting their abilities and acknowledging their powers, not treating them like toys by docking their tails or clipping their ears. Verses filled with scenes of dogs at play attempt to extrapolate a kind of canine moral code: Dogs bark and growl because they defend what they love; they chase and nip because they are forever hunting. Though the story meanders into asides with details about the history and habits of certain breeds, owners of such dogs will nod in agreement: Herding blue heelers “long to nip at the cattle hoofs,” and intelligent basenjis “think upon dreams / of how [they] should rearrange the house.” Schenck keeps the matter of being a good dog and good dog owner at the forefront, without delving into a specific relationship of any one dog with Uncle Earl. Such an expansive survey of the dog world ensures animal lovers will spot their favorite breed, with a two-page index listing breeds alphabetically.

A touching tribute to a dog lover and all sorts of canines.

Pub Date: June 13th, 2014
ISBN: 978-1499517927
Page count: 64pp
Publisher: CreateSpace
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2014


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