Buy Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me
It’s not often that I get to review poetry collections written by a dog. It feels like no time ago that I was chuckling over Moses’ and Stevens’ Waggiest Dogs anthology and now the delightful Thinker has arrived. This unusual collection (Pub: Tiny Owl) opens with ‘Naming me’ in which a new puppy is unable to contain himself when he hears
‘Let’s call him something cute. / My eyes popped open, and I said, ‘Uh-uh! No way! No way! / I’m deep and I’m a poet. No! / A cute name’s not okay.’ /
So it is that the name ‘Thinker’ comes about, chosen by Jace who is also a poet. As the publisher, Tiny Owl, says, Thinker isn’t just an average puppy. He’s a poet. So is his owner, Jace, and together they turn the world around them into verse. The poem is propelled by a gentle narrative as Thinker interacts with the family, visits the park (where he coins a haiku or two) and, eventually, gets to accompany Jace to school on Pets’ Day. Despite reminding himself of the rule:
‘watch, think, bark. / No poems. No talk. /’, he just can’t help himself, ‘And the next thing I know, / I’m jumping up and running, / running to the front / of the room, and I start / reciting a funny poem./’ To the delight of Jace, the children and the teacher this precipitates a wave of un-pet like behaviour as ‘the cat starts singing opera, / and the frog is walking upside down / and the three goldfish / are dancing in the fish tank, /.’
The award-winning poet, Eloise Greenfield, offers authentic voices for Thinker and Jace. Writing about the collection she says: ‘The characters grew on me, and I fell in love with them, with their love for each other, and especially with Thinker, this puppy who loves words.’ She makes apt use of a range of forms, rhyming and free, finishing with a joyous final rap:
‘Going to the house now, / going to close the door, / Got to say goodbye now, / please don’t ask for more./ Going in the house now, / my good friend and I, / got to say goodbye now, / Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, / GOODBYE!’
Tiny Owl is the first publisher of Greenfield’s work in this country. Formed in 2015, they say of this collection that it forms part of its wider programme to promote under-represented voices and cultures in literature, and to produce beautiful picture books for everyone. And a beautiful book it is too! Eshan Abdollabi’s vibrant illustrations are a perfect accompaniment to the poems. Abdollabi’s depiction of Thinker is charming (not cute!) and it is this representation as well as the stylised, collage like illustrations that are so distinctive and make this a very special book. The illustrations are boldly coloured in contrast to the pastel-pretty endpapers depicting Thinker running through blossom as a bird soars away in the sky.
This is probably a book that teachers will want to introduce to children poem by poem before adding it to the class book collection. Once there, you can be sure that children will want to revisit it.
32 pages / Ages 7+ / Reviewed by Alison Kelly, consultant.
- Eloise Greenfield explains: how Thinker began
- Read responses to our Children and Poetry Campaign by Julie Douglas, Liz Brownlee, John Lyons, James Carter
- Watch this creative video by illustrator Ehan Abdollahi: Make Thinker the Puppy for yourself
- Thinker was selected as Perfect Picture Book Friday. Read a review by Patricia Nozell