Wednesday, May 13, 2009

REVIEW: Before You Were Mine

Boelts, M.  (2007).  Before You Were Mine.  New York:  G.P. Putnam's Sons.


In case you hadn't noticed, David Walker has a way with illustrating animals.

And let me tell ya, this picturebook packs an emotional punch.  A knock-out punch.

In Before You Were Mine, a boy contemplates where his dog had lived before becoming his pet.  The books shows the trouble that a puppy can cause, but also reinforces the fact that with the right family, a dog can feel loved.  The repetition of "Before you were mine..." reinforces a sense of belonging and happy ending for the dog and boy that allows the narrative to consider some of the less than ideal possibilities of what had happened to the dog previously--animal abuse or abandonment.  

The illustrations match the text well and, in the darker moments, manages to capture the sentiment of loneliness and pain without being controversial or startling.  For example, this is the illustration accompanying the the portion of the narrative implying abuse:

What's more, the text goes on to explore the fact that the boy's old dog had been put to sleep, but that the boy can have a new beginning with a shelter puppy.  So a teacher could also touch on issues of life and death.

Also, this is a book I recommend buying, because apparently the author, Maribeth Boelts will donate a portion of the profits to the Humane Society.

Activities to do with the book:


 This would be a wonderful book to share with children who have or are about to adopt a pet from an animal shelter.  It could trigger a discussion on the responsibilities and difficulties of having a young pet, as well as the fact that some animals are abused before being rescued and taken to a shelter.

Also, a teacher could gently enter into a discussion of physical or emotional abuse with children, using the dog as a metaphor for the experience.


This picturebook could also be an introduction or conclusion to the themes in Sharon Creech's Love that Dog.

Favorite Quotes:


"Before you were mine...Did you live in a warm house with warm smells, and a rug that was only yours?"

"Before you were mine, someone must have let you go..."

"Before you were mine...was someone mean to you?

Were you kept on a chain,

with a dusty bowl

and lonely sounds all around?

Did someone say, "Bad dog,"

even though it wasn't true?"

"Before you were mine...

they couldn't have known what they had

in a dog like you...

or they would have never let you go."


To find out more about illustrator David Walker's most recent book, Crocodaddy, visit the blogs listed below:

A Christian Worldview of Fiction, A Mom Speaks, A Pathcwork of Books, All About Children’s Books, Becky’s Book Reviews, Booking Mama,Cafe of Dreams, Dolce Bellezza, Fireside Musings,, Looking Glass Reviews, Maw Books Blog, Never Jam Today, Olive Tree, Our Big Earth, Reading is My Superpower, SMS Book Reviews, The 160 Acrewoods, Through a Child’s Eyes



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