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Gowanus Dogs Hardcover – April, 1999

3.0 out of 5 stars 3 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

A first-time author and artist springs powerfully onto the picture book scene with this visually arresting tale of a homeless man who finds love and redemption caring for a feral puppy. Beginning with a scene of a pile of pups inside the darkened whorl of an abandoned cement mixer, Frost thrusts readers into the stimulating world of a mother dog and her three offspring. Sweeping black-and-white vistas invoke the chilly winter cityscape of their gritty urban environs near Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal. As the canine family searches for food, Frost introduces the supporting cast, all of whom play a role in this understated drama: a homeless man, a bridge worker, an oil boat crewman and Maggie, a waitress at the Blue Moon Diner. When the homeless man uses what little money he has to buy the dogs food, he sets off a chain of events that eventually finds him work and an apartment as well as homes for the three pups. Frost's narrative moves as smoothly as the ships down the Gowanus Canal, and his accomplished drawings of life on the riverway build like film frames to a climactic finish, with homeless man and pup curled up together under a roof of their own. With brief exchanges between charactersAin both words (the boat crewman says "Welcome aboard" to the pup he later names "Captain") and pictures (in one spread, Frost subtly conveys a bond between the drawbridge operator and the pup he would adopt as "Inspector")Ahe creates, within his big-city setting, the intimacy of a closely knit community. Ages 5-up.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

Grade 1-3The gritty streets surrounding New York Citys Gowanus Canal provide the setting for this sentimental tale about a family of scruffy dogs and a homeless man who makes his bed under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Their paths cross as the man in a stocking cap collects cans to finance a meal at the Blue Moon Diner and the mother and her pups tear apart garbage bags in search of a tasty treat. While the adult canine hangs back, her pups roam the neighborhood charming the local bridge and boat workers and their new friend decides to use the last of his money to buy them some dog food. That night, snow covers the city and one of the puppies falls ill. The man rushes to an animal shelter where a veterinarian reluctantly agrees to treat it. Eventually, the puppys siblings are brought to the shelter. Amazingly, all ends well when the neighborhood workers adopt the other dogs and the man is able to keep his pet when he is given a job at the shelter and an apartment above the diner. Contrived conflicts are conveniently resolved and the happy ending is simply too farfetched to be believed. While the murky black-and-white etchings reinforce the mood of the story, the visual appeal is limited. A didactic account of urban woes.Alicia Eames, New York City Public Schools
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Age Range: 5 and up
  • Grade Level: Kindergarten and up
  • Hardcover: 48 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar Straus Giroux; 1st edition (April 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374310580
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374310585
  • Product Dimensions: 12.2 x 9.7 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,753,291 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is a great book. I live near the Gownaus Canal so I was interested as soon as I read the title. I read the book to my first grade class and they loved it. The story is wondeful - a homeless man helps to save the lives of some stray dogs and some people pitch in to give the man a fresh start - a home and a job.
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By A Customer on July 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I will give Jonathan Frost this: He is a wonderful artist who provides here several etchings that will no doubt be enjoyed by child and adult alike. However, the writing in "Gowanus Dogs" is very poor, indeed, and the story itself -- and how he resolves it -- are especially troubling. It assumes that dogs (and, therefore, all animals) are, and ought to be, dependent upon man for food, shelter, and safe keeping. It also resolves that animals are ONLY acceptable when they are owned by humans. The grand "happy ending" of this very slight, poorly written, and poorly thought-out book, has a canine mother losing her entire family of puppies and living alone in a garbage yard. (We're supposed to be happy because at least her puppies are now safe and sound in the care of kind men.) Joanathan Frost should stick to his etchings and mezzotints. He should only again think of picking up a pen if he intends to use it for writing apologies to those who bought this book. A further note: Frost implies that homeless people are just like you and me. All would be well if they only had a job. But I'm a native New Yorker who lives not far from the Gowanus Canal. Many of the homeless here (as well as across America....dare I say, the majority) suffer from mental disorders and/or drug dependency. Being sympathetic to their plight is, I suppose, noble, but proffering to children that homeless people are otherwise friendly and kind and approachable is, especially in this day and age, reckless and mindless.
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By A Customer on September 20, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Sometime in their lives, children should learn that not all people live cozy, sheltered lives. That's what Gowanus Dogs accomplishes. A reader complained about how the author depicts homeless people, but at least the topic of homeless people is introduced. Gowanus Dogs is a good entree to a discussion with your child about homelessness and poverty, although I doubt that few real-life endings are as happy as the book's ending.
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