Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – #BookReview 2014 The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs by The New Yorker by Donna W. Hill

Welcome to the series  Posts from Your Archives, where bloggers put their trust in me. In this series, I dive into a blogger’s archives and select four posts to share here to my audience.

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A welcome return to the archive series to Donna W. Hill who has let me loose in her archives..In this post I go back 2014 to a book review by Donna for a wonderful sounding book perfect for all dog lovers. Donna gave the book Five Stars.

BookReview The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs by The New Yorker by Donna Hill

Ever since humans started throwing scraps to the adventurous wolves beyond the firelight, dogs have been inspiring us and drawing forth from us the full spectrum of our emotional capacity. From enjoyment, love and gratitude to exasperation, fear and cruelty, our reactions to our furry companions have been a mirror of our greatest virtues and our deepest shortcomings. If you’re thinking of reading The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs in the hopes of finding one warm and fuzzy, tug-at-the-old-heartstrings story after another, you may be disappointed, though probably not for long. This is The New Yorker, after all, and this collection, compiled and contributed to by The New Yorker Magazine’s Malcolm Gladwell, lives up to the reputation for breadth and sophistication we’ve come to expect.

It is a book to be savored, something to be read in its smallest components and pondered. It is divided into four sections — Good Dogs, Bad Dogs, Top Dogs and Under Dogs. Each section is introduced by a piece from writer, cartoonist and New Yorker editor James Thurber (1894 – 1961), who was obsessed with dogs both in his writing and his drawings.

Fiction, poetry, journalism and creative nonfiction blend to form a panorama of all aspects of life with “man’s best friend.” Better yet, the writers are a cross-section of the best of the 20th century — E.B. White, Ogden Nash, Arthur Miller, Wislawa Szymborska, Ann Sexton, John Updike and T.C. Boyle to name a few.

You’ll learn about working dogs, and how the training of police dogs and guide dogs diverged. You’ll encounter the lingo of dog fanciers. I grew up with a beagle, and my artistic side would have been enriched by the knowledge that she wasn’t wagging her tail; she was “feathering her stern.” She wasn’t barking; she was “giving voice” or “opening.”

Then, there’s the perplexity that has surrounded the study of the canine’s olfactory talents. Dogs, you will learn, can find cell phones in buckets of water.

“A good dog is a natural super-soldier: strong yet acrobatic, fierce yet obedient. It can leap higher than most men, and run twice as fast. Its eyes are equipped for night vision, its ears for supersonic hearing, its mouth for subduing the most fractious prey. But its true glory is its nose. In the 1970s, researchers found that dogs could detect even a few particles per million of a substance; in the nineties, more subtle instruments lowered the threshold to particles per billion; the most recent tests have brought it down to particles per trillion.

“It’s a little disheartening, really,”  Paul Waggoner, a behavioral scientist at the Canine Detection Research Institute, at Auburn University, in Alabama, told me. “I spent a good six years of my life chasing this idea, only to find that it was all about the limitations of my equipment.” (“Beware of the Dogs” Burkhard Bilger 34)”

One of my favorite articles tackles the question of how dogs came to be domesticated in the first place. Did humans capture and breed wolf cubs, as some believe? Or, was it the proto-dog’s idea to hang out with humans? The question springs from a father’s story of coming to terms with his daughter’s irrepressible desire for a Havanese puppy.

“It wasn’t cub-snatching on the part of humans, but breaking and entering on the part of wolves that gave us dogs. “Hey, you be ferocious and eat them when you can catch them,” the proto-dogs said, in evolutionary effect, to their wolf siblings. “We’ll just do what they like and have them feed us. Dignity? It’s a small price to pay for free food. Check with you in ten thousand years and we’ll see who’s had more kids.” (Estimated planetary dog population: one billion. Estimated planetary wild wolf population: three hundred thousand.) (“Dog Story” by Adam Gopnik 11)”

And, then there are the cartoons. A dog walking on a leash says to a dog holding his own leash, “So, how long have you been self-employed?” A dog looking at a menu in a restaurant says to the waiter, “Is the homework fresh?”

In “A Note on Thurber’s Dogs”, Adam Gopnik relates a Buddhist-like train of one question morphing into another.

Those of us who care about dogs–and The New Yorker— ask a similar straightforward-seeming question that also provokes several trick turns. For us, the question “Why did James Thurber always draw dogs?” really means something like “Why do dogs matter for writers?” or even “What draws writers to any of their strange obsessive subjects?” (Which is another way of asking, “What is the way?”) (381).

Black Lab service dog, Hunter, looking out from his bed under the table: photo by Rich Hill

©Donna Hill 2014

About Donna W. Hill

Donna W. Hill is a writer, speaker, animal lover and avid knitter from Pennsylvania’s Endless Mountains. Her first novel, The Heart of Applebutter Hill, is an adventure-mystery with excursions into fantasy for general audiences. Professionals in the fields of education and the arts have endorsed it as a diversity and anti-bullying resource for junior high through college.

A songwriter with three albums, Hill provided educational and motivational programs in the Greater Philadelphia area for fifteen years before moving to the mountains. Her essay, “Satori Green” appears in Richard Singer’s Now, Embracing the Present Moment (2010, O-Books), and her cancer-survivor story is in Dawn Colclasure’s On the Wings of Pink Angels (2012).

From 2009 through 2013, Hill was an online journalist for numerous publications, covering topics ranging from nature, health care and accessibility to music, knitting and chocolate. She is an experienced talk show guest and guest blogger and presents workshops about writing and her novel for school, university, community and business groups.

About The Heart of Applebutter Hill

Imagine you’re 14 and in a strange country with your camera, your best friend, her guitar and her dog. You uncover a secret and are instantly in danger. Join Baggy, Abigail and Curly Connor as they explore Elfin Pond, sneak around Bar Gundoom Castle and row across an underground lake. The powerful Heartstone of Arden-Goth is hidden nearby, and corporate giants unleash a spy to seize it. Compelled to unmask the spy and find the Heartstone, they can’t trust anyone.

As summer heats up, their troubled friend Christopher is viciously bullied and an armed stranger terrorizes Abigail and Baggy. The friends disagree about the spy’s identity, but are convinced it’s a teacher. When a desperate Christopher shows up one night with a terrified cat, the truth is revealed. Soon, police are involved.

One of the over 50 reviews for the book

This is a book about a blind girl without being a book about a blind girl….which is exactly the point. The main character, Abby, doesn’t trumpet her disability around the world as if it were her defining characteristic. She doesn’t have a sense of entitlement. The reader is never tempted to pity her, even for a moment. She is a driven, bright, gregarious yet measured girl who just happens to be blind.

Through her experiences we are exposed to a world that depends on the other senses, we find new ways to connect to the world around us. Mrs. Hill paints Abby’s thrill ride with her companion dog (Curly Connor) and best friend (Baggy Brichaz) in such a manner that the reader leaves the book better equipped to understand visual impairments without hitting them over the head with it. It took me a while to realize this because at first I was just writing this review on the merits of good vs. bad Young Adult fiction (and it is good, trust me). The feather in the cap of this book is that it stands as a great story that actually teaches you something, leaves you pondering your own disabilities vs. those of others.

I am a middle school reading teacher and I review and teach a lot of YA fiction. What separates the wheat from the chaff for me is well-developed characters that show humanness and overcome in spite of failures. You get the feeling that each of the characters in this book could very well survive on their own but the adventure is exponentially heightened because of the relationships they garner with each other. Mrs. Hill does a brilliant job of showing weaknesses, strengths and diversity as just a starting point to the basics of character interaction. By the end of this book, I felt like Abby, Baggy and Curly were my next-door neighbors and I still find myself looking out my window, waiting for the Cloud Scooper to swing by….

Read the reviews and buy the book:

And Amazon UK:

Read more reviews and follow Donna on Goodreads:

Connect to Donna.

Amazon author page:

My thanks to Donna for permitting me access to her archives to share and I hope you will head over to explore more yourself. thanks Sally.

32 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – #Potluck – #BookReview 2014 The Big New Yorker Book of Dogs by The New Yorker by Donna W. Hill

  1. Hi Sally, thank you for including me in your Posts from Your Archives “Pot Luck” series. It is always an honor to appear on your blog and to interact with your friends. BTW, I read this book as an audio book courtesy of the National Library Service for the Blind & Physically Handicapped (NLS), which is part of the US’s Library of Congress. I pull my direct quotes from the international digital download service Bookshare, a subscription service for readers with print impairments.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Smorgasbord Blog Magazine – The Weekly Round Up – Music, Numerology, Vitamin C, Guest Posts and funnies. | Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

I would be delighted to receive your feedback (by commenting, you agree to Wordpress collecting your name, email address and URL) Thanks Sally

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