CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 6. . . .October 8, 2010
Jorge Luján. Illustrated by Isol. Translated by Elisa Amado.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood/House of Anansi, 2010.
36 pp., hardcover, $18.95.
Preschool-grade 3 / Ages 4-8.
Review by Myra Junyk.
My bunny understands me.
When I'm sad she can tell right away.
And though she walks on four feet
And she likes to bite,
She's nicer than the nicest people.
This beautifully illustrated picture book is a compilation of poems about pets written by Latin American children. They describe all kinds of pets, ranging from dogs and cats to monkeys, rabbits, turtles, parakeets and even marmots! Readers learn a great deal about the relationships between owners and their pets. The poems are amusing, touching and filled with the joy of life which can only be expressed through the exuberant words of young children with a story to tell.
One poem speaks to longing for a puppy named Olivia. Another poem compares a pet monkey to its owner. They are very much alike, except the owner doesn't "stink" like his monkey! Coco, the turtle, is usually slow – except when she falls down the stairs. The book's title comes from the poem "Doggy Slippers." It describes how a dog named Littlekins fits into his owner's slippers when he first arrives. Then the dog is hit by a truck and nursed back to health. Now he is big and doesn't fit his name any more.
Jorge Luján explores the tender relationship between young children and their pets. The notes at the end of the book tell readers that "[t]he idea was to write a collection of poems with the help of children from all over Latin American using the Internet." The writer, who lives in Mexico City, also works as an architect and a musician. He has written numerous children's books and has won the IBBY Argentina award. The award-winning illustrator, Isol, lives in Buenos Aires. Together, the two have created a beautiful collection of children's poems about relationships which young children will undoubtedly enjoy immensely. In 2009, this picture book was published in Spanish.
Through shimmering and exciting illustrations, the various settings are shown in predominantly brown tones with interesting touches of colour for emphasis. The drawings are often abstract. When a young girl describes her dog, Hurricane, popping soap bubbles with her tail, the illustration consists of a line drawing on a beige background with luminous touches of white and blue to symbolize the soap bubbles. The three line poem about Kitty is a wonderful combination of text and illustration. The orange of Kitty's fur rushes across the page in a furious portrayal of activity. In fact, most of the information about this poem comes from the visual text because the actual poem is only ten words long!
The written text of this picture book is well suited for young readers. The vocabulary is simple and easy to understand since the text, itself, was written by children, themselves! This picture book has great potential as a read aloud for young children. The various poems and voices will intrigue young readers. Parents and teachers should make sure to read with a lot of emotion. In a classroom setting, Doggy Slippers could also be a great tool for shared reading or a springboard for writing poetry. The poem about the marmot who doesn't like poetry is a great way to begin a discussion about poetry!
Myra Junyk, a literacy advocate and author, lives in Toronto, ON.
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