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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

It's a Dog's Life, written by Susan E. Goodman and illustrated by David Slonim. Roaring Brook Press, Macmillan. Raincoast. 2012. $18.99 ages 7 and up

"Okay, we don't have the greatest eyesight in the world; we're not the best at seeing details. But if there's a hint of movement, we're on it! Sheepdogs pick up their shepherd's hand signals a half-mile away. As for all those fancy colors, who cares? In the old days - before our meals came in a bowl - we hunted at dawn and dusk. We didn't need to see reds..."

The subtitle for Susan Goodman's entertaining and enlightening book is How Man's Best Friend Sees, Hears, and Smells the World. Most appropriate and definitely not a misnomer. Even the most inquisitive child with unlimited questions may not have considered all that she includes in this book that those kids will find hard to put down.

Readers will go back to the text again and again to assure they remember all that they learn while sharing it. And share it, they will! Joe, a scruffy and endearing narrator leads the way from his opening Pssst! He knows he has a lot to share and he gets right down to it. He wants to have a conversation, and he wants us to join him.

He begins at the beginning...a very fine place to start:

"Luckily, early humans made it easy for us. They'd toss aside tasty bones and guts left over from their dinner."

It didn't take dogs long to realize they might have a good thing going here, and that humans suited them. He talks about helper dogs, and best buds. He tells about purebreds and mixed breeds, and about the many different kinds of work that dogs do for their people. The thing they do best is:

"Mostly, we hang out with you. Okay, I admit it; we take this best friend business very seriously."

There are a host of things that people may not know about their 'best' friends. Joe is keen to let us in on some of their secrets...acute hearing is one. This leads me to think on another reason why having a dog when our kids were young was not a good idea. There was a time when Erin tried her hand at the violin. I thought we were suffering:
"And when you practice the violin, you only hear the part of each sound that falls within your range of hearing. We suffer through all the really high parts. Trust me, you would howl, too!"

There's talk about taste buds, sense of smell, eyesight, and specific dog language. Joe is not a squealer though...he is not willing to give up all secrets. He just wants readers to know a bit more than they already might about 'man's best friend'. In the end, Susan Goodman shares a 'human point of view' and includes a bibliography for those who want even more.

This book was great fun to read, while also being informative. The cartoon images and humor will capture a reader's attention from the get-go and leave them chuckling and even, at times, sighing at the wonder that is a dog!

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