Tag Archives: dogs

Rescue the Entire World

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

disclaimer: I read this during and after election night, and I think this review could’ve been better, but my level of concentration while reading  was negligible. I regret it, because this was a really good book! I left the review, because it was an adequate recall of what the book’s about.

“Whoever destroys a single life is as guilty as though he had destroyed the entire world and whoever rescues a single life earns as much merit as though he had rescued the entire world.”

-Talmud

As I started to read this book I told a few third grade students at school that they might enjoy it. I told them about the Holy Dog, and the three kids who could do magic… But as I continued reading I started to wonder if my recommendation was premature. I don’t mean that this was a bad book; it was the subject matter that had me worried. I wasn’t sure if third graders could handle it, but then I reasoned they read Harry Potter, so what’s the difference between that and this? And then the election happened… Talk about throwing a big old existential crisis in my face…

Yes, this book deals with some hard truths (it was the inquisition): burning people alive, torture, religious persecution, parents dying, animals dying, and martyrdom. Hard truths from the Middle Ages, but could they be relevant today? The answer to that is a resounding: YES! Not so much the tactics, but religious intolerance, hate, murder… We can’t protect our kids from hard truths anymore (see: Sandy Hook). They need to understand this world. They cannot be brought up to believe that a man who haphazardly grabs women’s genital regions, mocks people with disabilities, and calls a group of people rapists is acting decently. Our country just sacrificed decency and morals to a pussy-grabbing demagogue, so this young and vulnerable generation is going to have to learn the hard truths now. No pussy (pun intended)- footing around. They need to know! They need to develop strong morals and empathy for the downtrodden. We need to foster in them a love for all things on this planet, and maybe then, if our generation doesn’t really fuck it up, we might have a glimmer of hope.

So yeah, I recommend this book to young children. They will like it, but make sure you read it with them and answer their questions.

Now what’s this book all about?

It’s about three different kids, their dog, and their journey.

It takes place in the Middle Ages (not to be called the Dark Ages!). The inquisition is happening. So it’s not a great time….

Jeanne is a peasant girl who has seizure- like fits that reveal the future to her.

It’s a miracle.

The Holy Dog is Jeanne’s. Gwenforte is a grey hound that Jeanne’s parents owned when she was a baby. The dog saved little Jeanne from an asp, but was killed by her parents due to a misunderstanding. Later, the parents find out that Gwenforte was actually a hero, and they make her grave a shrine.

Needless to say, many years later, Gwenforte rises from the dead (like Lazarus), and joins the children on their adventure. It’s a miracle.

William is next. He is a monk. He is a giant. He is the son of a French father and a Saracen(medieval term for Muslim) mother. In the monastery William is some-what protected from prejudice, but William is strong- willed, and speaks out against an older monk, which gets him expelled from the monastery.

William is as strong as an ox. It’s a miracle.

Jacob is young, small, and a Jew. Jewish people (imagine this…) are not treated very well in the Middle Ages. One night, young boys burn his village, and his mom and dad sacrifice themselves so Jacob can escape.

Jacob can heal anything with plants and herbs. It’s a miracle.

But miracles mean saints, and to be a saint you must be martyred, and martyrdom sucks! Especially when you’re ten.

There are consequences for performing miracles, and people fear the unknown. (see our current state of affairs)

Like the Bible, The Inquisitor’s Tale is told through witnesses (people the child- saints meet along their journey), and completed by a nun who happens to know things she shouldn’t.

There’s a farting dragon, book burning, daring deeds, a forest of human-like-monster “things”, a devilish monk, quicksand, an evil queen, and a ton of other preposterous stuff that makes this book a really great read.

My one caveat: the author, Adam Gidwitz, wrote a very quick story; he didn’t spare a word. We zip right along, and I will never complain about this kind of writing, but it was so “neat” that I felt like everything wrapped up way too nicely. Bad, bad things happened, and the ending was so sudden that I was left with a BUT on the tip of my tongue.

Also, for anyone who’s ever read Christopher Moore’s Lamb, you might find yourself seeing a few parallels!

Other reasons this book is worth it:

 

“Jeanne is thinking about something. AT last, she shares it. “William, you said that it takes a lifetime to make a book.”

“That’s right.”

“One book? A whole lifetime?”

“William nods. “A scribe might copy out a single book for years. An illuminator would then take it and work on it for longer still. Not to mention the tanner who made the parchment, and the bookbinder who stitched the book together, and the librarian who worked to get the book for the library and keep it safe from mold and thieves and clumsy monks with ink pots and dirty hands. And some books have authors, too, like Saint Augustine or Rabbi Yehuda. When you think about it, each book is a lot of lives. Dozens of dozens of them.”

“Dozens and dozens of lives,” Jeanne says. “And each life a whole world.”

“We saved five books,” says Jacob. “How many worlds is that?”

William smiles. “I don’t know. A lot. A whole lot.”

 

“Life is a song, composed and sung by God. We are but characters in His song.”

 

“Distinguishing the voice of God and the voices of those around us is no easy task. What makes you special, children, beyond your miracles, is that you hear God’s voice clearly, and when you hear it, you act upon it.”

 

Leap Day, and the End of Love

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

February’s over at midnight tonight and I definitely didn’t read as many books this month as I had anticipated, but that’s okay, because I’m ending the month with a review of:

Where the Red Fern Grows

A movie that had a huge impact on my young, impressionable years, and after finally reading the book for the first time this month, it has now profoundly affected my adult years. This story is not for the faint of heart, and it’s for kids! What’s it trying to teach us? Work hard, have fun for a few minutes, and then expect to muddle through tragedy. This book is brutal!

LOVE: The DOG KIND

 


 

This story starts with a boy who wants two hounds. The dogs cost $50, which the boy can’t afford, so instead of hanging his head and giving up, the boy spends two years picking fruit and doing odd jobs in order to save enough money to buy his hounds.

He finally earns the $50, and his grandfather orders the dogs from a catalogue. The dogs arrive on a train, and Billy walks 30 miles barefoot to get the dogs. The dogs are small and beautiful and the boy carries them home in a sack on his back. The boy sees two names carved in a tree inside a heart on his walk home: Dan and Ann, so he decides to name his two little dogs Old Dan and Little Ann.

The walk home is long, so the boy and the two little dogs have to sleep in a cave overnight. During the night a mountain lion starts to cry and Old Dan goes to the mouth of the cave and answers its challenge.

Old Dan and Little Ann are small, but they prove to be very smart, unique dogs. They pick- up the art of the hunt quickly and start treeing coons with a relentless finesse that astounds everyone. During their first hunt they tree a wily coon that climbs the tallest tree in the riverbed. The boy promised the dogs he would kill the coon if they tree him, so he feels a great deal of obligation to get the coon out of the tree. He has two options: climb the tree or cut it down. He knows he can’t climb it, so he takes his small ax and cuts it down. It takes the boy three days, and the dogs never give up the coon in the tree. The raccoon doesn’t make it.

The boy’s grandfather and father believe that Dan and Ann are impressive enough to win a hunting competition, so they enter. The night before the competition the boy hears the screech of two owls, which is bad luck up in the mountains. The hounds impress everyone. Little Ann wins a beauty competition, and together they tree the most coons. On the last night the boy and his father, grandfather, and a judge are out with the dogs when a blizzard starts to fall. The dogs do not give up on the coon trail, so the boy is left with the awful decision between leaving his dogs, or getting stuck out in the snow looking for them. They stay and pursue the dogs, and find them in the morning running around a tree with a treed coon, nearly frozen. They win the competition, earn $300, and head home.

The screech of two owls forebodes bad luck, so here we go:

The boy is out on a hunt with his dogs when Old Dan stops and points up to a tree. Through the branches the boy sees the glowing yellow eyes of the mountain lion. The mountain lion old Dan had challenged that first night in the cave. The lion attacks and a fight ensues. Old Dan and Little Ann jump between the lion and the boy, and the lion deeply wounds both dogs. Unwilling to let the lion kill his dogs the boy attacks with his ax, while Little Ann grabs hold of the lions neck. Between the two of them, the lion is killed. Old Dan is gravely injured. The boy carries him home, and Old Dan dies soon after. Little Ann, after losing her partner stops eating, and wills herself to death on Old Dan’s grave.

The boy buries his dogs on a hill, and when he goes back to visit a red fern has grown between the two mounds.

“I had heard the old Indian legend about the red fern. How a little Indian boy and girl were lost in a blizzard and had frozen to death. I the spring, when they were found, a beautiful red fern had grown between two bodies. The story went on to say that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern, and that they never died; where one grew, the spot was sacred.”

And at this point in the second grade, I was sitting at my desk an absolute puddle of devastation. This happened again in the fifth grade. And it happened again when I finally read the book for the first time last week. Thinking back, this book had a profound impact on my life. One of my only memories of second grade was watching this movie. I have professed my hatred for this book many times over the years, and yet here I am again. What is wrong with me? That’s rhetorical the truth is: this story is beautiful. Horribly sad? Yes. Gruesome? Yes. But Billy (who I have only referred to so far as the boy for reasons I will make clear soon) is a boy from another time. He’s a hard worker. Cares deeply for his dogs, and is willing to sacrifice everything for them. Billy and his dogs have an uncanny ability to communicate their wishes to one another, and they are most comfortable in each other’s company.

 

 

“People have been trying to understand dogs ever since the beginning of time. One never knows what they’ll do. You can read every day where a dog saved the life of a drowning child, or lay down hi life for his master. Some people call this loyalty. I don’t. I may be wrong, but I call it love- the deepest kind of love.”

Old Dan and Little Ann are elevated in this story to the proportions of myth. They can do things no other dog can, and most uniquely of all, they seem to have real love for one another. They will not hunt alone, and they will defend one another to death, which of course, they achieve in the end.

I didn’t use Billy’s name during my synopsis, because although this is largely a coming of age novel, I believe it is the legend of two dogs that I haven’t been able to forget since first hearing their story in the second grade.

So Ann and Dan are out of this world- kind of dogs. To reiterate this point I created a list comparing my dogs to them. Now, you may think, “that’s not fair! Ann and Dan are fiction! That’s like expecting a hero from a romance novel to actually exist!” Well, true, but I think after seeing the list  you’ll understand why I felt compelled to compare the two sets of dogs.

We love you forever Dan and Ann!

 

On Dogs

Published / by SarahE / Leave a Comment

Dogs suck, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

You may be like me and feel a lot of emotion during movies like: Where the Red Fern Grows, Old Yeller, The Fox and the Hound, and when Shadow falls under those train tracks in Homeward Bound. But these are ploys to divert our attention away from the fact that dogs are nothing but users.

Somewhere in their history the wild dog got restless. They were tired of living outside, hunting for food, walking in snow without booties…

This website shows you how to DIY dog booties if you're in the market.

This website shows you how to DIY dog booties if you’re in the market.

That’s about the time they became aware of humans as something more than a higher species on the food chain. Humans were gullible. Humans were persuadable.  All they had to do was make a face like this:

And they would be set for life.

But this is the truth: Dogs are assholes.

I have two dogs. Both mutts. Both animal shelter dogs, which just boils down to this: runaways. That’s the truth too! Pound puppies are generally runaways. So you go to the pound, and you’re affected by the barks and yips of desperation: help me lady, don’t let them lethally inject me, I’m a real good dog! Just take me home, you’ll see! And you fall for it, because you’ve been emotionally compromised by the above mentioned movies. So, you adopt them and become an Animal Rescuer! You get bumper stickers that say things like: Who rescued Who? And when people ask what kind of dog you have, you humbly answer: a rescue.

But the truth is more complicated, because your life has just become a living nightmare. Your rescue escapes confinement, eats furniture, shoes, underwear, a stick of butter (which leads to awful diarrhea in the middle of the night), library books, a tray of cookies; until they get so comfortable with doing their own thing you find them standing in the middle of the dining room table, eating straight off your dinner plate.

You cover it up though, and pretend all is well. And eventually, it starts to get better. The dog starts to calm down, and you think: I’m the goddamn Dog Whisperer! I will rescue all dogs! So give me your fence jumpers, barkers, furniture destroyers, the perpetually unpotty- trainable! I will SAVE them!

And with this thought the cycle begins again. You go back to the pound. You walk in all smiles. You take a good look at all the barking, crazy ass dogs, and you say: give me your worst! Which they happily hand over as fast as possible- seriously, they already have that dog on a leash and out the door. And instead of suspicion, you think: what great customer service!

You get the new dog home, and instantly your old dog hates it and tries to eat it to demonstrate dominance, so now your house is divided between old dog section and new dog section.

Eventually though, they come around to each other, and they’re great friends. Partners in crime. But now…

You have two awful rescue dogs instead of one, and something like this is happening in your living room:

Also, with the new young addition to the family. The older dog forgets all of her training, and becomes just as bad as when you first got her.

Who rescued who: my ass!

Watch this, and try to remember: You love dogs!

Also, if you just love crying, try these dog books:

The Art of Racing in the Rain

Where the Red Fern Grows

The Incredible Journey

All Creatures Great and Small (Not exclusively a dog book, but definitely includes dogs, and it’s a great listen!)

Dog On It

Because of Winn- Dixie

The 101 Dalmations (If you love the writing, try one of my favorite books by Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle)

Watchers

The Poky Little Puppy

Howliday Inn (a childhood favorite)

Bark, George

The Best of Mutts

Roger in My Family and Other Animals

Ordinary Jack and Absolute Zero 

My Dog: the Paradox

Say Hello to Zorro

Dogsbody– Diana Wynne Jones of Howl’s Moving Castle fame

Animal Madness

And if you want to understand your dog more, try this TedRadioHour:

“Animals and Us”