Friday, April 24, 2009

Looks like Loose Leashes

I’m a dog person and a photography buff, so finding this new collection of dog poetry, Loose Leashes, illustrated with photographs was especially fun. This is a “first” book for both the poet, Amy Schmidt, and the illustrator, her husband, Ron Schmidt. It’s a picture book collection of 16 poems (plus a bonus poem on the back cover), with each poem presented in its own double-page spread. The poem appears on a solid color page on the left, with the clever color dog photo-portrait on the right (except for “The Battle of the Bone” which features dueling dogs on each side of the center fold). The book’s designer also deserves a nod, because the choices of color, font, and layout are equally appealing AND sophisticated, not an easy tightrope to walk.

The poems and pictures are pure fun, with 16 different dogs (and breeds) showcased in a variety of human-like activities, from driving to skating to reading to surfing to sledding. But they’re also depicted bathing, sleeping, and swimming in more dog-like poses. Still, in each photograph and poem, the personification is deadpan clever, with a stop-motion sense of personality. Each poem also includes a tiny name in parentheses in the bottom left-hand corner. I really wanted to know if these were the REAL names of these doggies. If not, they’re quite witty—as in the dueling Chihuahuas, Pip and Squeak.

The poems offer a fun variety of poetic forms, including quatrains, tercets, haiku, list poems, question poems, and even a limerick! An impressive debut effort. Here’s my favorite:

and the Demise of His Eyes
by Amy Schmidt

There once was a dog that could read
With amazing page-turning speed.
People thought it an act,
But it was a fact—
This dog was an uncommon breed.

One evening a strange thing occurred.
While reading, his sight became blurred.
He squinted his eyes
But was sadly surprised
To see lines blurred, word into word.

A vet claimed, “Your dog is all right.
Just weak eyes affecting his sight.”
The dog got new glasses,
Began taking classes,
And now he is learning to write!


Schmidt, Amy. 2009. Loose Leashes. Ill. by Ron Schmidt. New York: Random House.

Loose Leashes is reminiscent of the work of William Wegman and communicates the same love for the canine species, beginning with the “furry” endpages front and back. A final component is the inclusion of “Furry Facts” on each featured dog, noting favorite songs, pet peeves and secret facts for each subject— continuing the sense of nonsense. (I had wished for a bit more info about the dogs, their names, and their breeds, but that may be just me.) A photo of a bright red fire hydrant opens and closes the book, too. Wink. Wink.

There are many other puppy poetry books to connect with this one (and I’ve posted that list before), so I would suggest that kids share photographs and stories about their own dogs-- and consider posing them in human-like activities (with parental permission and guidance) to inspire further creative writing and photography. It’s irresistible! (I put a tiny sombrero on my son’s little Yorkie just last night!)

If you haven’t already done so, join the Poetry Friday sharing at Lisa Chellman’s blog at Under the Covers.

Image credit:

Posting (not poem) by Sylvia M. Vardell © 2009. All rights reserved.

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