Reviews for My Life in Dog Years


Booklist Monthly Selections - #1 January 1998
/*Starred Review*/ Gr. 5^-10. Paulsen's style has been smoother, but this honest, unpretentious celebration of dogs further entrenches his reputation as an author who is as successful at writing nonfiction as he is at writing novels. In roughly chronological chapters, he introduces eight memorable canines he has known and loved over the years. Some were pets, others he knew as trusted partners or protectors--from Snowball, the first, to Josh, who "if possible . . . is always with me." Although the chapters are linked by small details and references (often easy to recognize from his previous books), each can stand alone, with several, including a wildly funny one devoted to an adopted Great Dane named Caesar, promising good read-aloud material. Paulsen differentiates his canine friends beautifully, as only a keen observer and lover of dogs can. At the same time, he presents an intimate glimpse of himself, a lonely child of alcoholic parents, who drew strength and solace from his four-legged companions and a love of the great outdoors. Poignant but never saccharine, honest, and open, these engaging canine character studies are guaranteed to charm animal lovers and Paulsen's fans, especially those who know Woodsong (1990) or Father Water, Mother Woods (1994). There's something to please at every turn of the page. ((Reviewed January 1 & 15, 1998)) Copyright 2000 Booklist Reviews

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Horn Book Guide Reviews 1998
Paulsen's animal-loving fans will read these nine essays (each about a favorite dog of his) with the same heartfelt enthusiasm that they were written with. [cf2]Puppies, Dogs, and Blue Northers[cf1] told about the author's sled dogs; this book is about the other dogs in his life, dogs that deeply affected him with their intelligence, loyalty, or sense of humor, and who befriended, protected, and even taught him.Copyright 1998 Horn Book Guide Reviews

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 1997 December #1
Here's a treat to make Paulsen fans sit up and beg for more: scenes of Paulsen's life viewed in terms of the dogs who graced them. Aficionados who have read Paulsen's other memoirs (Father Water, Mother Woods; Eastern Sun, Northern Moon) already know of the author's rough-and-tumble childhood as the son of alcoholics; readers of Winterdance already know of his devotion to the sled dogs who pulled him through the Iditarod. Although he returns to familiar territory here, his approach is new. Profiling such dogs as Dirk, who "had Airedale crossed with hound crossed with alligator" and who unfailingly protected him from hoodlums who routinely menaced him in his youth, he both reveals himself and pays vivid tribute to his canine companions. In deceptively casual prose, he writes of his own troubles matter-of- factly while wittily and affectionately enumerating his dogs' virtues. Not all the episodes are bleak, fortunately, and one of the most successful chapters describes the glee inspired by a particularly brilliant border collie. While most boy-and-dog accounts tend either toward the tearjerker or toward the consciously heartwarming, Paulsen's paean resonates with a robust appreciation of the species; his writing percolates with energetic love. Illustrations not seen by PW. Ages 10-up. (Feb.) Copyright 1998 Publishers Weekly Reviews

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School Library Journal Reviews 1998 March
Paulsen reveals bits and pieces of his own life story through his experiences with eight of his dogs. After a heartfelt dedication to Cookie, the sled dog who saved his life, the author introduces readers first to Snowball, the puppy he acquired when he was seven years old and living in the Philippines, and then follows chronologically with profiles of other canine companions. He concludes with tales about Josh, the border collie with whom he currently shares a home. Paulsen is a master storyteller with a dry wit. His description of his dog Fred, whom he claimed was actually "nuclear in his capacity for destruction," and his account of his Great Dane Caesar, who was so petrified of trick-or-treaters that he would hide in the bedroom closet every Halloween with a housecoat over his eyes, are sure to elicit smiles. Paulsen can also make readers sigh when he relates how Snowball saved him from being bitten by a poisonous snake and how Cookie pulled him out of the water when he fell through the ice while trapping beaver. The statement, "Josh..is a person. I do not think in my heart that he is a dog," gives youngsters a real sense of how the man looks at these animals. An attractive pen-and-ink sketch of the profiled animal opens each chapter. This well-written, readable reminiscence serves as a tribute to the dogs in one person's life, written by someone who considers them his best friends. Copyright 1998 School Library Journal

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VOYA Reviews 1998 April
This collection of seven informal essays about some of Paulsen's dogs should be a hit with dog lovers and the popular YA writer's fans. Some of the earlier pieces are as much about Paulsen as the dogs. We learn about his parents (he calls them drunks ) as well as about his loneliness as a child. Anyone who has ever been picked on by other kids will cheer on alley dog Dirk as heprotects his master and chases his tormentors. But there is joy as well as terror. Ike, the black Labrador, who did not belong to Paulsen but hunted with him, meant a lot to him, as did his discovery of hunting, "the opening into a world of wonder." I wish Paulsen and a child's father had not lied to a child in the Iditarod story about Quincy. But most of the book is casual, and the stories tend to sentimental endings. They are like Reader's Digest anecdotes and might be titled "One of the MostUnforgettable Dogs I Ever Knew." But Paulsen is master of the shrewd one-liner: "Of all the dogs I have had, Fred was closest to being nuclear in his capacity for destruction." Paulsen believes dogs analyze and plan. If he really means for me to believe that his border collie Josh used to irrigate his fields, I don't. But such questions and any lack of substance will not trouble those countless readers young and old whocannot wait to read every word Paulsen writes. My Q rating is based on the (dangerous) assumption that the final, edited version of this text will be at least as stylistically well done as Paulsen's previous published work and not contain the serious defects of this unedited version. RichardGercken. Copyright 1998 Voya Reviews

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