Saturday, April 26, 2008

Move on Over, Rover! Stella Unleashed by Linda Ashmon


Metal bars,
A cold, hard floor.
No window seat,
No doggy door.

Countless strangers came to call,
I listened, watched,
And sniffed them all.
Then turned away,
And curled up tight.
Nice enough,
But not quite right.

Then one day I sniffed a sniff,
And got the most delightful whiff--
Dirt and candy, grass, and cake.
I stuck my paw out for a shake.

A boy knelt down.
I licked his face.
He rubbed my head;
I'd found my place.

That's how I chose this family,
Not perfect, no,
Except for me!

Stella, Unleashed: Notes from the Doghouse tells in short, pithy verse the story of a shelter dog who finds her place with the just-right family of her choice. Stella's poetic ruminations on her family members from a canine point of view are so on target that dog owners will be chuckling with self-recognition as they see themselves through Stella's eyes. One really funny spread shows Dad absentmindedly going through his wake-up routine while Stella tries to communicate in canine body language. She hopefully drops her ball in front of him, and he strolls on by; she goes meaningfully to the door, and he gives her a passing pat on the snout; she stares poignantly at her empty bowl, and he pours himself an eye-opening cup of java.

So much I'd like to talk about--
History! Science! Art!
But based on observation
It appears they're not that smart!

Other family members get put in their place as well: the cat grudgingly gets her due: "...She's acrobatic. If I could walk on tabletops like that, I would be ecstatic!" The baby gets a wary eye, with the counsel "cannot be trusted near tail." Joyful lines of verse romp across the pages, artfully integrated with Paul Meisel's pencil, gouache, and acrylic illustrations, which flow seamlessly from page to page. This picture book is as much fun for the whole family as a new puppy, and Stella is a character than few will forget. Here's Stella on the endless daily duties of dogs:


Alarm clock,
Inspector of the kitchen,
Ruler of the yard.
Protector of the house,
Retriever of the ball.

Move over, Martha, Harry, and Ike, and make room in the doghouse of honor for Stella, the poetic pooch! More Stella, please!

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