Happy Book Birthday to today’s Perfect Picture Book! While all book birthdays are happy occasions, today’s book birthday is particularly special as we celebrate the pairing of an award-winning children’s author and poet hailing from the United States with a preeminent illustrator hailing from Iran. Thanks to the generosity of the publisher, Tiny Owl Publishing, I received an advance copy that I’ve read and reread, including to my own pup (he loved it, too!).
Title: Thinker: My Puppy Poet and Me
Written By: Eloise Greenfield
Illustrated By: Ehsan Abdollahi
Publisher/date: Tiny Owl Publishing/April 2018
Suitable for Ages: 4-8
Themes/Topics: dogs; poetry; communication; #WNDB
They brought me from the neighbour’s house
and put me on the floor,
they talked about their love for me,
and I thought, “More! More! More!”
Brief Synopsis: A collection of discreet poems that tells the story of Thinker, a dog who writes and recites poetry, and Jace, a young poet, as the pair bond over poetry and ultimately enjoy a memorable Pets Day at school.
Links to Resources:
- Can your pet talk? Explore the different ways animals communicate;
- Enjoy more dog-themed poetry;
- Follow Greenfield’s lead and write “a poem or two”;
- Although I’ve never met a poetry-writing dog, some dogs enjoy being read to, including therapy dogs who visit libraries and encourage children to read aloud to them. Learn more about library dogs;
- Make tissue-paper collages, similar to those created by Abdollahi.
Why I Like this Book:
Told in a series of 16 free verse and rhymed poems, primarily from the point of view of Thinker, Thinker explores what it means to be part of a family and be appreciated for one’s talents within that family, and how we can share our unique talents with the wider community, too.
Thinker is an engaging story with a kid-relatable problem: Jace doesn’t want his poetic dog to show off his unique skills in school because Jace doesn’t want other children to consider him weird. But being quiet is difficult for Thinker. He questions,
Who am I, if I’m
Who am I?
Only by being himself and sharing the poetry in his heart is Thinker happy. Indeed, who are we, if we can’t be ourselves and express the joy and music in our hearts, in our own unique ways, too. Jace learns this important lesson. He also realizes that others admire Thinker’s poetry and that other pets have unique talents. But you’ll have to read Thinker to discover what those talents are.
Thinker also celebrates communication: the cross-species communication of the two poetry-loving friends and the cross-cultural communication between the poet’s words and the illustrator’s images. United by a love of children’s literature, the renowned American poet Greenfield shares her lyrical words and the talented Iranian illustrator Abdollahi shares his colorful, handmade, hand-coloured collaged illustrations to create a wonderful reading experience that owes its beauty to the unique talents of its creators. Thinker’s smaller, just-right-for-younger-hands size will appeal to kids. The retro feel of the illustrations is an additional plus, especially as Thinker features a family of color, living an everyday life with a twist – a poetic dog in their home.
A Note about Craft:
Greenfield includes poems in Thinker that switch between the points of view of Thinker and Jace. In “Two Poets Talking”, Jace and Thinker even hold a conversation through their poetry.
Greenfield includes many free verse poems and also some that rhyme. There’s a short Haiku and the 89-year young poet even ends Thinker with “Thinker’s Rap.” I hope when I reach Greenfield’s age, I’m still writing and embracing new forms of expression.
Greenfield is the author of 47 books for children, and has received many awards, including the 2018 Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award for Lifetime Achievement and the Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children from the National Council of Teachers of English. Read Greenfield’s essay about how Thinker began. See also a 2007 interview by Don Tate in The Brown Bookshelf.
Abdollahi is a noted Iranian illustrator, who illustrated, among other works, When I Coloured in the World (Ahmadreza Ahmadi, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2015) and A Bottle of Happiness (Pippa Goodheart, Tiny Owl Publishing, 2017). Read an interview with him here.
Thinker is not yet available in the US, but you can order it from the Book Depository, that ships for free worldwide.
This Perfect Picture Book entry is being added to Susanna Hill’s Perfect Picture Books list. Check out the other great picture books featured there!