There is something so intriguing, so inviting about the simplicity of haiku; three lines, five, seven, five syllables.
paw prints on the stairs
each fainter...like years: dogs are
dreams to which we wake
Michael J. Rosen and illustrator, Mary Azarian, in their new collaboration, The Hound Dog's Haiku and Other Poems for Dog Lovers. Twenty breeds of dogs each with their specific characteristics and personalities noted shine in this vibrant collection of verse. To be sure this is an affirmation of their importance in our lives but also a tribute to their canine quirkiness; Rosen's skill with this poetic form is brilliant.
Endpapers, front and back, show a large expanse of white space bordered at the bottom by a wide strip of grass; an extension of the cover. Whether large, small, resting, at work, playful, peaceful or predictable two page spreads name the breed, speak to their essence and vividly visualize each in all their "dogginess".
Caldecott Medalist, Mary Azarian's woodcut prints done in black then colored with acrylic paint are bold, inviting a reader's caress to see if in fact they might be raised impressions. Placing each breed in a definitive pose and setting in a variety of seasons lends a naturalness to each illustration; barn, field, forest, pond, rumpled bed, grass, dog bed, at the door, digging in a garden, leaping to catch a Frisbee, nose pressed at a window or curled upon a shirt in a favorite chair. Her choice to bleed a visual across both pages or confine it to one fashions a flow from one to the other that is as flawless as her artwork.
Michael J. Rosen and Mary Azarian, dog lovers to the core, offer up to readers what we know to be true about our respective canine companions and also inform those not familiar with the true spirit each breed brings to us. The final four pages have thumbnails of each graphic along with a short paragraph about each of the breeds. The Hound Dog's Haiku and Other Poems for Dog Lovers is a resplendent romp through the fields, ears flapping in the wind, barks crooning joy read to the very last sigh before curling up in front of the fire at day's end.