Book Review of Pukka
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Book Review of: Pukka

The Pup After Merle

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Review of Pukka, by Ted Karasote (Hardcover, 2010)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)

Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.

This is a cute annotated photo tour that visually documents a puppy's first months with the author, with comments presented as if from the puppy's point of view. I completed that tour in about half an hour, so if you want a quick read this is definitely a good book to pick up. But there are more compelling reasons to add this book to your collection.

Many of us fans of Ted Kerasote's book consider him a friend and have corresponded with him (how he keeps up, I have no idea). For that reason, I will refer to him by his first name throughout this review.

I had mixed reactions to this book.

  • On the one hand, it simply is not possible to outdo Merle's Door. So, I'm glad Ted didn't try. That book reached people on a deep spiritual level. It would be an understatement to call the writing superb. Fans of Merle's Door wanted Ted to get another dog, and I'm sure Ted also wanted to do that. Of course, getting a new dog means telling us about the dog. Pukka is too young for a relationship like that with Merle to have developed, yet. So, what's an author to do? Ted's solution was a photo tour with commentary from the dog's point of view.
  • On the other hand, this book lacked the depth of Merle's Door. While the photos were great and often heart-warming, the book didn't have much text in it. Then again, it shows rather than tells and it's a mantra among authors to "show, don't tell." And the text it did have struck me as clever and ringing true.

I believe this is the prequel to another sort of book, though I have not asked Ted to confirm that. We find hints in the photos and comments related to teaching and training a dog. I think rather than have a "Merle was my friend, and Pukka was too" book in the future, what's coming is a book about building a friendship with a dog.

A sequel might cover such things as: Why does teaching a dog to "leave it" really matter, and how do you teach that? How do you teach a dog to live life large? What lessons does a dog really need to have, and what lessons should you never teach a dog? What's the proper time to teach this, versus that? How is the dog communicating back to you, and why should you listen?

Something that really struck me in the photos is the well-developed musculature and lean body of the puppy. These things stand out to my eye, because I'm very lean and muscular myself (as evidenced on www.supplecity.com). Ted, who hikes some hard mountain routes, clearly has hiker's calves. This is not a couch potato dog, but one who is actively exercising mind and body. In Merle's Door, Ted revealed the beauty and value of a relationship that can be developed with such a dog. In Pukka, we see the dog himself developing. The next logical step, sequel-wise, is starting to look pretty obvious to me.

Some people did not understand the purpose or scope of this book, and gave it a negative review. That's unfortunate. I think I've just explained the purpose and scope of this book, and I hope those reviewers will go back and update based on these thoughts.

So what about the content of this book? Parents often gush about how wonderful their kids are, and dog owners may wax on in superlatives about their new puppy. It's generally not something that excites the listener. This book doesn't contain that kind of gushing. What a stroke of genius to bypass any possibility of that, by using the first person POV (Point of View) of the puppy.

How can Ted possibly know the dog's thoughts? If you spend much time around a dog and are paying attention, you cannot help but know. Dogs are very expressive. My neighbor has a black Lab who almost never vocalizes, but has a large vocabulary of distinct facial expressions and body language gestures. His meaning is seldom unclear. I have found this same expressiveness in many other breeds, from beagles to Chihuahuas to Dobermans.

This book brings to us the puppy's reaction to an unfolding new world of smells, sounds, sights, and experiences. Anyone who has reared a child or raised a pup can relate to the ideas, if not the actual events. For many people, the entertainment value is the primary benefit of this book (though there is other value, to those wanting to build a good dog-human relationship). I concede it can be a yawner for those who lack their own socializing experiences with dogs, but I don't think those folks are the target audience of this wonderful pictorial book.

This book consists of 196 story pages with at least one color photo (sometimes two) per page and a 197th page with no photo. As a photographer myself (I've taken magazine cover photos, if that gives you an idea of my skill level), I was impressed with the composition and quality of the shots in this book.

Thanks, Ted, for sharing. This book was great.

 

 

 

About these reviews

You may be wondering why the reviews here are any different from the hundreds of "reviews" posted online. Notice the quotation marks?

I've been reviewing books for sites like Amazon for many years now, and it dismays me that Amazon found it necessary to post a minimum word count for reviews. It further dismays me that it's only 20 words. If that's all you have to say about a book, why bother?

And why waste everyone else's time with such drivel? As a reader of such reviews, I feel like I am being told that I do not matter. The flippancy of people who write these terse "reviews" is insulting to the authors also, I would suspect.

This sound bite blathering taking the place of any actual communication is increasingly a problem in our mindless, blog-posting Webosphere. Sadly, Google rewards such pointlessness as "content" so we just get more if this inanity.

The reviews I do will, contrary to emerging trends, actually tell you about the book. I always got an "A" on a book review I did as a kid (that's how I remember it anyhow, and it's my story so I'm sticking to it). A book review contains certain elements and has a logical structure. It informs the reader about the book.

A book review may also tell the reader whether the reviewer liked it, but revealing a reviewer's personal taste is not necessary for an informative book review.

About your reviewer

  • Books are a passion of mine. I read dozens of them each year, plus I listen to audio books.
  • Most of my "reading diet" consists of nonfiction. I think life is too short to use your limited reading time on material that has little or not substance. That leads into my next point...
  • In 1990, I stopped watching television. I have not missed it. At all.
  • I was first published as a preteen. I wrote an essay, and my teacher submitted it to the local paper.
  • For six years, I worked as an editor for a trade publication. I left that job in 2002, and still do freelance editing and authoring for that publication (and for other publications).
  • No book has emerged from my mind onto the best-seller list. So maybe I'm presumptuous in judging the work of others. Then again, I do more describing than judging in my reviews. And I have so many articles now published that I stopped counting them at 6,000. When did I stop? Probably another 6,000 articles ago! (It's been a while).
  • I have an engineering degree undergrad and an MBA. That helps explain my methodical approach toward reviews.
  • You probably don't know anybody who has made a perfect or near perfect score on a test of Standard Written English. I have. So, a credential for whatever it's worth.

About reading style

No, I do not "speed read" through these. That said, I do read at a fast rate. But, in contrast to speed reading, I read everything when I read a book for review.

Speed reading is a specialized type of reading that requires skipping text as you go. Using this technique, I've been able to consistently "max out" a speed reading machine at 2080 words per minute with 80% comprehension. This method is great if you are out to show how fast you can read. But I didn't use it in graduate school and I don't use it now. I think it takes the joy out of reading, and that pleasure is a big part of why I read to begin with.

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