Month: May 2018

How Dogs Think: What the World Looks Like to Them and Why They Act the Way They Do by Stanley Coren

dogsAs a new dog owner, I’ve been interested in books which talk about dog training and thinking. This one has been really interesting. I liked the detail, although at first I thought I might have chosen something a little bit dry, it isn’t that way at all. There are lots of examples and anecdotes to keep you reading and to clarify the scientific points being made.

Stanley Coren is a psychologist and he applies his knowledge to dogs by looking at the various senses they have and using that as a basis to look at the behaviour they exhibit. I learnt so much from this book, about breeds and the generalisations we apply to them which are often not actually based on any evidence. I loved hearing about dog physiology especially about their paws and whiskers. As I have a dog which needs grooming, I’m really not keen for him to lose his whiskers anymore! They are removed as a standard part of the ‘making him look gorgeous’ process, but he needs them to help him navigate the world. There is so much in this book, and a lot of it is about assumptions and things we think we know about dogs and quashing the inaccuracies. A lot of it is about training and the ways dogs learn – or don’t learn. I enjoyed learning about the different methods in which dogs are trained and the thoughts about how dogs might be useful to us in the future when we train them to do even more for us.

I learned so much about the way my dog uses his senses and where his behaviour has come from. The things that have been passed down to him from his ancestors and why he does some of the things he does. This book was a great read, I highly recommend it if you are new to dogs or are even just interested in learning more about your dog.

Tin Man by Sarah Winman

tinmanI’ve been savouring this book and eking it out so that it wouldn’t finish too soon. It is a warm and moving account of love. The kind of love that exists in so many places but isn’t talked about. The kind of love that is furtive and therefore more passionate than if it were openly expressed. It is love in the round, between husbands, wives, friends, lovers, family all interconnected and beautiful in it’s own ways.

One of the most wonderful parts of the book is the scene where Gile’s mother wins a paining in a raffle. She chooses the painting of Van Gough’s sunflowers despite the fact that her husband is horrified at her choosing a painting over a bottle of whiskey which is the other raffle option. This is the first time we learn of the bullying nature of Gile’s father and the first stand made by his mother. The story of the sunflowers runs through the book, creating constant links back to this moment.

It is a book with sections told by different characters. First you meet Giles, working nights at the car factory where he has spent his working life, polishing out the dents in the cars and desperately sad after the death of his wife Annie. But Giles reflects back to the friendship and relationship he had with his mother and most poignantly with Michael his childhood friend, the moment when they became more than friends and then when life intervened and he married Annie forming a three way bond between Annie, himself and Michael which was strong and beautiful but which was always bound to be difficult. Michael loves both Giles and Annie. Giles is alone now after Annie and Michaels deaths and he looks back on a life full of love but now so lonely. His lonely life is beautifully portrayed.

Michael has been bought up by his grandmother, a woman he had hardly met when he has to come and live with her. They become wonderful together. Michael and Giles become firm childhood friends and then go to France on holiday and their relationship is taken to the next level. Michael looks back on his life, with Giles, with Mabel, with G (what he calls his lover) as he dies slowly and painfully of Aids and of his relationship with another patient in the hospital. For me the most moving part of Michaels story is his journey to Arles the place of the sunflowers in Van Gough’s painting. A place where he mourns for everything that is lost from his life.

This is so moving and beautiful, I am so looking forward to see what Sarah Winman writes next, When God was a Rabbit was a glorious read. I think this author just gets better and better.

Last Pick by Jason Walz

lastpickThis is a really well done graphic novel for junior high school students. Plenty of issues, lots of big decisions to be made by a brother and sister who are desperately trying to save the world from an alien invasion. It is seat of your pants stuff! They have limited time, few resources and a fiery determination. Especially Sam, she is full of guts and grit. Wyatt however is a thinker, he is unusual and has trouble with social skills but is resourceful. Sam feels responsible for Wyatt now that their parents have been taken by the aliens. I love the bond between the siblings their fight against the evil aliens is epic and full of drama. Plenty of tension and good relationships, this is great!

The art is great, nice to see something not too designed and smooth and computer rendered looking. It has a good grungy look. This is definitely a book for the school library.