In a poetic narrative first published in the U.K., a boy’s dog is much more than a friendly pooch—like his owner, Jace, he’s a poet: “They named me Thinker, and I knew/ this was the place to be.” Jace and Thinker communicate in non-rhymed verses. “When I recite my poems,/ I make music,” Jace says. But even though Jace loves exchanging poems with Thinker at home, he fears how others might react if they heard him recite poetry. Abdollahi illustrates in evocative collage using handmade paper, capturing the feel of Jace’s bustling community. Coretta Scott King Award-winner Greenfield sensitively conveys Jace’s anxiety about being perceived as different, and his realization that being true to one’s self is the best bet—for kids and dog poets, too. Ages 4–8. (Apr.)
"In this charming book of linked poems - the story of a pup who speaks, but only in verse - the distinguished children's poet Greenfield glides gracefully between rhyme, free verse, haiku and rap. A boy named Jace becomes the dog's owner. He names him Thinker ("I'm deep and I'm a poet," the dog warns. "A cute name's not O.K.") and the two have back-and-forth chats about life. On every page, Abdollahi's collaged illustrations bring the characters to life with a soulful flair." - The New York Times
"Abdollahi's bright collages of handmade and hand-colored paper show Thinker with his joyful, brown-skinned family, in a welcome addition to the too-small canon of lighthearted animal fantasy (and poetry) featuring children of color." - Horn Book Magazine
"Greenfield brings her vast experience to this delightful piece of poetic whimsy that celebrates the powers of poetry, family, and friendship. The light and liveliness of the pictures are eye-catching and appealing, and the color palette is warm and rich, further enhancing the poetry. A good way to introduce the youngest readers to extended narratives in verse. " - Kirkus Reviews
"Abdollahi illustrates in evocative collage using handmade paper, capturing the feel of Jace's bustling community. Coretta Scott King Award-winner Greenfield sensitively conveys Jace's anxiety about being perceived as different, and his realization that being true to one's self is the best bet-for kids and dog poets, too." - Publishers Weekly
"should encourage young wordsmiths" - Booklist
Gr 1–2—What if your dog could speak human words? When Jace and his family want to name their new puppy "something cute," the dog objects. "Uh-uh! No way! No way!/I'm deep and I'm a poet. No!/A cute name's not OK." Naming him Thinker, Jace, who is a poet, shares his ideas about poetry with the pup. The improbable--even goofy--premise plays out as an entertaining, empathetic story and congenial poetry lesson through Greenfield's skilled writing. Abdollahi's fine use of cutting tools with hand-crafted papers produce simple, attractive characters and scenes. The title suggests that Jace will be the narrator, but Thinker takes center stage most of the time. Greenfield favors free verse that moves easily along, recounting Thinker's days and his eventual visit to Jace's school for Pets' Day. There is one haiku and a small rhymed verse along the way, and Thinker closes his stirring class visit and the book with a rap. Greenfield's short concluding commentary on poetry writing, free verse, and rap invites readers to also write their own poems. Modest in size, the narrative will work best with an early grade range for personal enjoyment, read-aloud, and discussion. It could also serve nicely in teaching both art and poetry writing in older classes. VERDICT A well-crafted title that is wide in appeal and possibilities for use.-Margaret Bush, Simmons College, Boston
A puppy gets a new home and a new family while learning to communicate.
When 7-year-old Jace receives a new pet dog, he picks out the perfect name for a puppy who believes he is a poet. "We'll name you ‘Thinker,' yes, I think / that that's the name for you." Jace, too, is a poet. "When I recite my poems, / I make music." Not permitted to attend school with Jace, Thinker spends time at home with Jace's little sister, Kimmy, and visits with his twin, who lives nearby. At last, it's "Pets' Day at school," but Jace doesn't want his poet puppy to speak. As Thinker knows, he's afraid "his friends will say / he's a weird kid, with a weird pet." Despite his best effort not to, Thinker recites a poem—but all the other pets join in with their own special talents, to the delight of the teacher, students, and even Jace. Greenfield brings her vast experience to this delightful piece of poetic whimsy that celebrates the powers of poetry, family, and friendship. Jace's family is African-American while neighbors and schoolmates are pictured as diverse. The poems are primarily free verse, but there are haiku and rap as well. Iranian illustrator Abdollahi uses expressive handmade and -colored paper collages to complement the mood. The light and liveliness of the pictures are eye-catching and appealing, and the color palette is warm and rich, further enhancing the poetry.
A good way to introduce the youngest readers to extended narratives in verse. (Picture book/poetry. 4-8)