Friday, June 20, 2008

New Review: STELLA, UNLEASHED

Thanks to Sondra LaBrie at Kane/Miller books, I know that today, Friday, June 20th, is TAKE YOUR DOG TO WORK DAY. Who knew such a “holiday” existed? Being a dog lover, I think this is a fun, if not so practical (if we ALL took our dogs to work) idea. I love the idea of “therapy” dogs at hospitals and health care facilities and found this such a comfort a few years ago when my mom was in the hospital. And when I taught sixth grade years and YEARS ago, I desperately wanted to get a dog and my students helped me find one, so I brought him (“Luther”) to school one day. He was a HUGE hit with the kids and they loved taking care of him. It made me a big fan of classroom pets, too, by the way—a great way to develop nurturing and responsibility skills in kids.

In honor of today’s occasion, I’d like to feature a new collection of dog poetry: Stella, Unleashed; Notes from the Doghouse (Sterling, 2008). Linda Ashman has written a fun and frolicking collection of rhyming poems about a much-loved dog’s life all told from the dog’s (Stella’s) point of view. This colorful picture book collection includes 29 poems organized along seven topics from “meet my family” to “the neighborhood pack.” In the illustrations, we see one family adopting a dog from a shelter in the opening poem, “Lost & Found,” and follow their adventures and their new dog, Stella’s, along with an assortment of other dog and human characters. Stella’s poems focus on her relationship with each family member and family pet (cat, fish), as well as her favorite pastimes and pet (!) peeves.

Paul Meisel’s illustrations across single or double page spreads are delightful, singing with a primitive Norman Rockwell-style narrative pull. The font, poem placement, and use of space create a very pleasing whole worth revisiting many times. Stella, her adopted family, and her poems, all have a lot of personality, with lots of kid appeal. Here’s a sample poem from near the end of the book with a sweet message communicated in a fun way.

Someone for Each of Us
by Linda Ashman

Tall and stately.
Short and stubby.
Brindled, spotted, speckled, shaggy.
Small and perky.
Large and bulky.
Wiry, curly, droopy, saggy.

Sporty, active.
Rough and tumble.
Moody types inclined to brood.
Pampered sorts
who crave attention.
Loners who need solitude.

Humans come in many forms—
different styles, sizes, traits.
Life is sweet,
and much less lonely,
when we find our perfect mates.

From Ashman, Linda. 2008. Stella, Unleashed; Notes from the Doghouse. Ill. by Paul Meisel. New York: Sterling, p. 38-39.

A Teacher’s Guide for this book is available at the author’s Web site.

Pair Stella, Unleashed; Notes from the Doghouse with the new picture book by the fun-loving sister team, Janet Stevens and Susan Stevens Crummel, Help Me, Mr. Mutt!: Expert Answers for Dogs with People Problems, for more fun from the dog point of view.

My poetry-loving colleague, Elaine Magliaro, also reviewed Stella, Unleashed on her blog, Wild Rose Reader. Check it out for more insights. (Hint: we agree!)

For more Poetry Friday fun, go to Semicolon.

Picture credit: www.sterlingpublishing.com

2 comments:

writer2b said...

This title is very familiar. I think I've seen it while shelf-browsing at the library. I'll be sure and check it out now. Thanks for the review!

Sylvia Vardell said...

You're so welcome. Thanks for stopping by. I think you'll enjoy STELLA, too.
Sylvia