For his first picture book, the author of Life in the Desert offers an unusually poignant story about a dog abandoned near a telephone pole along the highway--``Old dog, old dog, / Left by the pole dog.'' Waiting for his owners to return, the forlorn mutt endures rain, cold, hunger and even gun shots--``Won't they come for their old dog?'' Seymour writes in an easily iterative, unassuming style; his minimal narrative makes a most affecting case for the humane treatment of animals. (The upbeat ending will no doubt mitigate any potentially disturbing effects on impressionable youngsters.) A final note indicates that not all strays are as fortunate as this pooch, and recommends contacting the local Humane Society if a lost animal is encountered. Soman ( The Leaving Morning ; When I Am Old with You ) varies his customary style here with impressionistic pastel drawings that focus directly on the dog. Each page is colorfully filled inside a pale yellow frame, as the audience proceeds from a bleak opening scene to the sunny, heartwarming final spread. Ages 3-6. (Mar. )
PreS-Gr 1-- This short piece presents a sensitive, but ultimately unrealistic picture of the way to deal with a stray animal. Written in short, catchy, easy-to-read verse, it shows what might happen to an unwanted pet that is set free. Released from a pickup truck, an old dog sits by the roadside waiting for his owner's return. Leaving only to rout around a dump for scraps and chase a hen (until he is warned away), he shelters from a rainstorm in a nearby sewer pipe. Soman's illustrations show a relatively healthy looking, none-too-bedraggled animal that watches a red car pass by several times before it stops. Out piles a clean-cut family of four, dog biscuits in hand, to rescue the old canine, the children running to hug him while their parents stand smiling in the background. A short epilogue warns of the difficulty a pet dog or cat would have surviving independently and suggests that strays be reported to the Humane Society or animal shelter. The warmth of the handsome, realistic, full-page pastel drawings is what makes this book (especially the ending) so appealing. Contrary to the advice offered in the epilogue, however, the story implies that it's O.K. to play with an unfamiliar animal. Let parents (and collection specialists) beware! --Susan Scheps, Shaker Heights Public Library, OH
"Old dog, old dog / Left by the telephone pole dog." The rhythm is catchy, folksy, even comforting, but the text and the expansive double-page illustrations soon reveal that this picture book is not about a frolic by the roadside. The "old dog" here has been abandoned. Cars whiz by, night falls; the dog scavenges for food, it suffers the cold and rain. "Nobody wants an old dog. Nobody wants Pole Dog. . . . Here, Dog!" Seymour ends her narrative happily, but she makes it clear in a follow-up note that abandoned pets are rarely as lucky as this old dog, and that instead of picking up a roadside animal, it's best to call the Humane Society or a local animal shelter. Because that's not what happens in the story (a family stops for the dog), the message is a little confusing. The dog's sad predicament, however, is unmistakable. Soman's paintings, rendered in thickly applied pastels, evoke the broad landscapes, the speeding roadway traffic, and the old red dog with an unstudied quality. They keep the story from slipping into sentimentality while still allowing room for it to tug at the heartstrings.