Allison's Book Bag

Poodlemania by Toni Tusa Faber

Posted on: May 21, 2014

Lavish illustrations. Sweet story. If only the rhymes had worked too, I might have been able to recommend Poodlemania, the first in a series of twenty-four picture books about poodles, by Toni Tuso Faber.

The selling point of Poodlemania is its double-page spread illustrations. It would be impossible to pick up Poodlemania without falling for its adorable poodles. The colors of the line drawings are both soft and vibrant. I also love the expressiveness of the poodle faces. Illustrator Benton Rudd should have a successful career as an illustrator of children’s books.

The story itself also grabs at the heartstrings. The narrator starts out by telling us that she’s always loved puppies. Then one year for her birthday, she ended up with TWELVE of them. You can well imagine, as the weeks went by and the poodles grew, it became more and more difficult to know just who was who. It also grew more challenging to keep track of each and every puppy, which is why one day the decision was made to confine the puppies to one room. But those zooming poodles had their own ideas and a few of them went missing. Oh dear!

I also greatly appreciate how Faber portrays the poodles’ animated personalities. When I opened my copy of Poodlemania and saw pictures of puppies climbing furniture and stairs, hiding under hats and in closets, laughing and pulling on shoelaces, I was excited. My husband and I know how this delightful breed can be stereotyped and misunderstood. Poodlemania goes against the tide.

Unfortunately, the cumbersome and at times awkward rhymes hurt an otherwise fun picture book. First, there is the length of the lines which run often as long as twelve words. A standard story by the ever-popular Dr. Seuss only runs from five to eight words. Second, there are the words themselves. Faber told her publisher, Mindstir Media, that she trusted in the intelligence of children and so purposely included a few new or difficult words in each book. While I applaud the spirit behind this idea, the addition of big words to lines which are already overly long makes for a text that is difficult to read. To turn to Dr. Seuss again, even in his more complicated works such as To Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street, most of the lines rely on familiar words. Last, there are the forced rhymes, a fault which often plagues novice writers. Witness the opening lines, which have been contorted to accommodate a rhyme:

“I’ve always so loved puppies, even as a girl of eight,
So for our puppies to arrive I couldn’t hardly wait.”

Rhyming narratives, like all poetic works, should contain a sense of rhythm and beat, which make for a pleasant melody. Poodlemania sadly fails in this area.

I have been unable to preview later volumes in the series to know whether the writing has improved. Given all the marketing promotion which has gone into the series and has resulted in an interactive website, a poodle club, and even a cartoon being in production, I would hope Faber has grown as a writer. Based on book one, however, I would caution readers against buying Poodlemania.

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