Paulsen is at the top of his form in this tribute to his sled dog Cookie, said PW in a starred review. It is easy to cross-shelve this book alongside adult titles, a love story every bit as much as an adventure story. Ages 10-up. (May) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Children's Literature - Jan Lieberman
Gary Paulsen is not only a terrific author, he is also a "dog musher" who has raced in the Iditarod in Alaska and has raised the sled dogs who became his closest friends. To understand his relationship with his dogs, especially "Cookie", his lead dog, read Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers. When Cookie and her puppies are let loose in Paulsen's small home, the results are both hilarious and disastrous. After suffering a heart attack, Paulsen must give up racing and the dogs, except for Cookie. When her end comes, we feel her loss, too.
The ALAN Review - Richard F. Abrahamson
Teen readers who know Paulsen's other books and his Iditarod adventures will curl up with an old friend here. Paulsen strings together a series of biographical essays that tell the story of his best lead dog, Cookie, her puppies, and the adventures shared by musher and dogs. In Paulsen's signature prose, crisp and clean as a Minnesota winter night, he takes readers into the birthing room to see Cookie and the new pups. We are witnesses to a mother's stubborn determination not to give in to the death of a stillborn pup. Through Paulsen's eyes we see the different role each dog in the team plays as they all take a part in raising the pups. Whether Paulsen is describing the joyful chaos of thirty-six puppies in a small Minnesota house or detailing Cookie's nobility in the face of death, readers are handed a mirror to look at themselves and reflect on the lessons animals have to teach us about living life.
VOYA - Alice Johns
Stories from the life of "Cookie" dominate this book about the lives and training of sled dogs. Cookie was eminent YA novelist Paulsen's "primary lead dog for something close to fourteen thousand miles-trapline, training, and one full Iditarod." She was mother of exceptional pups, a lifesaver of the author more than once, and trainer of other dogs and her owner. Paulsen portrays the relationship of dogs and owners as a joyful relationship of fellow beings on the earth. Sled dogs' lives from conception to birth and from dog adolescence to adulthood are lovingly described. The final chapter portrays another part of life for these beings, the illness and retirement of Cookie and Paulsen, and Cookie's death on a cold winter's night. All readers who are dog lovers, and those involved with nature, particularly dogsled driving and living in a cold northern climate, will enjoy this book. Illus. VOYA Codes: 3Q 2P M J S (Readable without serious defects, For the YA with a special interest in the subject, Middle School-defined as grades 6 to 8, Junior High-defined as grades 7 to 9 and Senior High-defined as grades 10 to 12).
From the Publisher
"Nonstop action."--The New York Times Book Review
[set star] "Readers . . . will find themselves along on a wonderful ride."--Kirkus Reviews (starred)
Read an Excerpt
LoveCopyright 2002 by Gary Paulsen
Cookie usually had puppies easily, but they were always so wonderful and special that I worried excessively each time. Considering that she had five litters of never less than eight pups and twice twelvealtogether over forty pupsthis constituted a large measure of worry.
She deserved the effort and concern. Cookie was my primary lead dog for something close to fourteen thousand milestrapline, training, and one full Iditarodand had on several occasions saved my life. But more, most important, she threw leaders. Sometimes as many as half her pups tended to lead and a few had, like their mother, become truly exceptional lead dogs; dogs with great, unstoppable hearts and a joy to run. It didn't seem to matter if they were male or femalethey were all good.
And so I worried.
This time the breeding had been accidental. We had been on a long training run in early fall, and Cookie had temporarily and with great enthusiasm fallen in love with a big, slab-sided half-hound named Rex. Cookie was running lead. It was a first-snow runthe snow was thin and melting rapidly and would be gone in two days, three at mostand it was so warm (thirty degrees) that I was wearing only a jacket and wool watch cap. We were running at night because of the heat (the dogs were most comfortable at ten or twenty below zero) and I had looked down at something on the sled when the whole team stopped dead.
I knew Cookie was in season and would not normally have run her during her time. But I had young and new dogsRex was one of themand I needed her good sense and steadiness to control them while we ran.
Cookie, overcome bywhat could only be described as wild abandon, stopped cold, threw it in reverse, and backed into Rex. If he was surprised, he recovered instantly, and before I could react, they were romantically involved.
I pulled the other dogs away from them to avoid any fights, tied them up to trees, and made a small fire to have tea. Usually these things took timelasted five or ten minutesbut with Cookie and Rex both in harness she would be anxious and stressful about wanting to run, and I wanted her to see that I had settled in and wanted to remove some of the nervousness so she wouldn't start to fight.
Normally I would have controlled the mating situation better, would have selected a male more to my liking. Rex was very much a question mark. I'd only had him a few days and didn't know much about him, and had I known that this would be Cookie's last litter and that it would be seven of the best dogstwo leadersthat I had ever seen or heard of, I perhaps would have paid more attention.
As it was I ignored them, or tried to. It always seemed to be such a private time for the dogs, the time of mating, and though they were quite open, I in some way felt like an intruder and did not like to watch them.
I turned away and heated snow for tea. The night was still and, consequently, I heard the dogs more than I usually would have. I "heard" the puppies being made.
In truth, much of what dogs are is based in sounds. They are quiet, wonderfully silent, when they run; mile after mile in soft winter nights I have heard nothing but the soft whuff of their breath and the tiny jingle of their collar snaps as they trot along.
But almost all other times they live in sound. They bark, whine, wheeze, growl, andwonderfullysing. When they see me come out of the house with harnesses over my shoulder, they go insane, running in their circles, literally bellowing their enthusiasmsome barking, some crying, some yipping, and some emitting a high-pitched keening scream that leaves the ears deaf for hours.
When it rains there is a song, and when it snows or when they want food or when something diessad songs, happy songs, duets and trios, sometimes all the dogs trying to harmonize, except the young ones who think they can sing but can't and throw their heads back to try to look adult but sing off-key and with the wrong timing.
They live in sound, always in noise. Perhaps because it is so constant, the art of listening to them falls off, and so many things they say are not heard, are swallowed in the overall sound. (An interesting aside: people know the sounds of their own dogs the way mothers know the cry of their babies. At one checkpoint during the Iditarod during a mandatory layover, some seven or eight hundred dogs were all in an area not much larger than a football field. The din was constant, deafening, and yet if a man or woman inside the building heard the sound of his or her own dog in the cacophonyeven if the person was fast asleepthey were up and out the door instantly.)
But this quiet night with the wind gone and even the fire muted somehow by the dark I could hear, and for the first time I think I truly listened to them.
There were some growls, low and soft, envy from the young males who wanted to fight and show they had shoulders and thick necks; quiet whines of interest from others; and then, above all, the soft sounds from Cookie and Rex.
I thought of the word love.
There are, of course, many who would dispute it, many who would say dogs simply mate and that only people love, and it is perhaps true that I would have said the same thing before that night.
But the sounds were sweet, soft, gentlenot whines so much as terms of endearment, courtesy, and hope. They made me think of all the good parts of living and loving; how two can honestly become one; how we have made it all seem pointless with posturing and fashion and frills but that it is not frivolous, it is as old and meaningful as time, and it has all to do with the one thing that we are on earth to doto make more, to make better, to bring new beings into it, into life.
All there, sitting by the fire while two peopleI still cannot think of them as dogsloved and were, in some way that I could not understand, sacred. All there listening to God making puppies.