Children’s Classic Literature: Dead Dog Edition
Okay, with a title like this, you might think I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel here. Oh . . . um . . . wrong imagery, sorry. Anyway, the Things and I were discussing the so-called children’s “classics” and how often they involve the dogs dramatically croaking by the end of the book. This theme is so pervasive in children’s literature that an author, Gordon Korman, even wrote a book about it – No More Dead Dogs. Now this is a book I might actually choose to read.
Unlike these others.
Seriously, what the heck is up with this? Why do these people like torturing young kids? Sure, tragedy happens, but COME ON, do we need that many books about it? And why is it that in order to be considered good, a book must be incredibly depressing, and at times, depressing AND horrific. Why, huh, why?
But you might wonder why the Things and I were discussing dead dogs. No it’s not because just because I’m a “sick puppy” it’s cause there is something wrong with our educational system. Thing Two is currently reading a lovely book called Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner. I too was forced to read this monstrosity, er, classic back when I was in school. Good to know they are still torturing children all these years later.
You might think I’m exaggerating (who me?) but I’ll show you. Here’s a compilation of four books the Things and I came up with in which a dog springs from his mortal coil and we all coil up into balls sobbing and / or wanting to stab the author. To round off the post, I’ve got a list of creepy sounding picture books to help children deal with pet death. And people wonder what’s wrong with kids these days. Authors, that’s who!
The Prime Offenders
1. Stone Fox
I thankfully have forgotten most of this book, but Thing Two and Wikipedia, source of all knowledge, were kind enough to enlighten me. The book is about a boy named, not kidding, Little Willy, who enters a sled dog race with his canine pal, Searchlight. Not Stone Fox, he’s the Indian guy. Anyway, even though most sleds are pulled by several dogs, this one is pulled by Searchlight alone who heroically makes it to the end of the race. Well almost. Ten feet from the finish line, his heart bursts.
Yeah, you heard right. THE DOG’S HEART BURSTS. Ka-boom! By the way, if you weren’t depressed enough already, this was based on the true story of an exploding dog heart.
2. Old Yeller
Ah the perennial favorite of school teachers everywhere – at least it was back in the 80s when teachers decided to read it to me TWICE in two successive years. Because there’s nothing like going through an entire book getting attached to a dog only for it to get freaking RABIES at the end and even better, get shot to death by its beloved owner. Aw.
Good news, they made a sequel too. Old Yeller’s son, Savage Sam, only gets a hatchet in the back. Lucky mutt.
3. Where the Red Fern Grows
I’m fairly certain I had to read this as a child, but had blessedly forgotten it before Thing One helpfully reminded me. This one has not only TWO dead dogs, but a dead kid! Extra points! It’s the story of Billy (not Willy) who gets some coon dogs (they chase um racoons) named Dan and Ann. One day, a bully that’s been bothering Billy falls on an ax and blood spurts out of his mouth. That’ll show ’em. Later, Dan and Ann fight a mountain lion and Dan donates his intestines to the cause. Ann dies of grief and probably to get out of the book. A heartwarming story for sure. HOLY CRAP.
This tale involves a black sharecropper and his family who apparently ticked off a higher power at some point cause their lives really stink. The sheriff arrests the dad for feeding his family actual food and then shoots the dog, Sounder. The dog loses an ear and an eye and can’t use a leg cause this author intends to kill him SLOWLY. Dad is sentenced to hard labor around the country and his son follows around looking for him and -yay- finds him! Right after he is half blown up in a dynamite blast. Dad dies, then the dog crawls under the house and dies too, but its happy cause at one point the boy learns to read. Lucky kid, now he can read this trip down horror lane.
Now onto the “puppy grief for kiddos” books. I get that kids do lose pets and it’s nice to have a story to help kids work through their feelings and all that. But the sheer number – and the titles – kind of creeps me out. Observe this bit from “Dog Heaven” by Cynthia Rylant who normally can write but can’t draw to save her life:
Also check out these other winning titles:
Will I See Fido in Heaven?
Paw Prints in the Stars
Saying Goodbye to Lulu
Sammy in the Sky
Billy’s Dog is Dead, Dead, Dead
Sorry, I might have made that last one up. Dogs are real parts of our lives and in general, way better than your average human. Because of this, I really think they deserve better than over-the-top deaths in “classic” literature, or worse, in syrupy children’s books. So, authors, for crying out loud: Leave the dogs alone!
Welcome to Camp Loopy!
First of all, I want to thank all of you for your kind words of encouragement. I finally took a step toward my own wellness this past Tuesday. I checked myself into the mental hospital, or, as I prefer to call it, Camp Loopy.
Because it really was kind of like a summer camp for kindergarteners, if said camp took place mostly indoors and every door was locked. Later, I may try to tell in more detail about the three nights I spent there, but for now, I’m going to go with a top ten list.
Top Ten Ways a Mental Ward is like Kindergarten
1. Circle Time: We went to “group” where we played show and tell and some of us were kind of obnoxious about it. I once had a Kleenex box pointed at me in a threatening manner.
2. Walk in single file. We walked in single file lines to the cafeteria and the hospital staff had to count us to make sure no one got lost. I proposed a game of hide and seek while the staff wasn’t looking, which the staff didn’t think was so funny, but my fellow Looneys did.
3. Use your imagination. We were told to relax and picture ourselves on a sandy beach. One Looney who was a veteran said “Like Afganistan?” with an evil smile.
4. Cut and Paste. Once we cut rocks and diamonds out of paper – rocks for the hard things in life, diamonds for the good things. One guy just glued his whole page to the black paper instead of cutting the stuff out. I wondered why I hadn’t thought of that. We didn’t get to keep the safety scissors.
5. You get to color. One guy colored a picture of Tinker Bell, and asked what color to make her dress. I said red because she’s kind of a tramp. He agreed and added red lipstick too. Then he gave his picture to one of the techs who actually hung it on the wall.
6. There were stupid rules. Like no keeping food in your room, even if the other people (it was mostly men) ate like hogs and all the snacks in the common area went fast. One tech dude stole my graham crackers. I wasn’t happy.
7. Keep your hands to yourself. No touchies here. This was not Mental Mingle.
8. Meltdowns. You could usually count on someone crying or throwing a hissy fit.
9. No cell phones allowed. Everyone had to share the phone but no one limited their calls. And yes, kindergarteners have phones now.
10. Time Out. Since you can’t leave, you’re pretty much always in detention.
Anyway, I’m still working on recovery, so bear with me a while yet. But the skies are looking better. Especially since I can see them now.
The Trouble with Alice
I’ve been trying to put what’s going on with me into words, and I don’t have anything but CRAYYYYYY CRAYYYYY, which makes for a somewhat lackluster post. But I’ll try anyway. I’ve struggled with my anxiety / depression for a while now. And the anxiety finally reached a breaking point on Thursday when the counselor suggested I go to le Chateau de Mentals.
It probably shows how twisted I am that it occurred to me that might make an interesting blogpost, going into the mental hospital. Possibly I have been blogging too long. Anyway, it also terrified me, and I’m not totally sure how it would help anyway. Sharing a room with another crazy person, going to group therapy with a group of crazy people, and paying through the nose for it. Actually, there is not enough money in my nose or elsewhere for such a thing. And I have insurance, good insurance, that will pay 30 percent of a stay after a rather large deductible. In other words, I will still owe thousands of dollars. If I were on medicaid, it’d all be paid for, but since I have insurance, this hospital offers no financial help.
I have nothing against anyone on medicaid, but I believe everyone should have the chance to be treated. If they want to, which as I said earlier, I’m not even sure if I do. If I knew for sure they would help, I might try it, because I am getting pretty desperate. My body is one giant exposed nerve, like the White Rabbit on LSD having a really bad trip. A sudden noise makes me jump out of my skin, and leaves me shaking. I can’t handle conflict of any kind. It’s just bad.
I am taking FMLA (unpaid but at least I keep my job) to try and get things together. But right now I’m in limbo, cause I have no idea what they plan to do with me since I am not going into the hospital. I don’t know how much time I’ll have off, what medicines they’ll try, nothing. I just know that I’m taking the paperwork to the doctor on Monday, so at least I don’t have to go to work then.
One of the worst things about the state I’m in is that I have upset other people without intending to do so. I fear I’ve lost relationships, or at least damaged them, and I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve had to take a break from Facebook for a while, and I should probably take a break from
other WordPress blogs. I have honestly considered just unfollowing everybody and starting over slowly. I mean nothing personal, but the number of blogs is overwhelming. Everything right now is overwhelming. When I’m better, I will pick back up on them. I would like nothing better than to be able to help others, but right now I’m not in the shape for it. And I know I’m not the only one.
I do have some posts, funny posts, that I plan to get to because I do still need this blog. I treasure all your comments and I’m never happier than when I make someone laugh. As I mentioned before, I have some Game of Thrones reviews – I have become addicted to that stupid show like Crack, but I guess it beats reality TV. Also, the girls and I recently composed a post about dead dogs in children’s literature and how much those books suck. It’s a real romp.
I appreciate all my readers. To my surprise, my stats have not fallen completely into the toilet in my absence. Thanks for that. I hope the rest of you are doing well, or at least better than Sad Pony and Squirrel.
Burning the Rabbit at Both Ends
Just a little note to let you guys know I’m taking a break. I believe I have a little something known as BURNOUT. This is why I haven’t gotten to comments, and why I just decided to stop the song challenge. Also the song challenge was way too long. I already have some reviews of Game of Thrones done, so maybe I’ll post those? I dunno. I’m just all around TIRED – body and brain. Hope no one else is going through this, but if you are, got any tips? I can always reserve a seat in my handbasket for ya.
Day 5: If You Like Pina Coladas
This one should be easy. There are so many songs that get stuck in my head on a regular basis. So. Many. But how to choose the most obnoxious one?
No, not that one, though undeniably it gets stuck in your head, I’ve already covered it. The worst songs are the ones that not only get in your head but that you hate beyond measure. I don’t actually hate Macarena – the first few times I hear it. It’s after you hear it dozens of times that I begin freaking out. But there is one song I only have to hear once, and yet radio stations continue to play it, probably because djs are ticked at getting low salaries. Here it is, guys, here it is.
I was tired of my lady, we’d been together too long
Like a worn-out recording of a favorite song
So while she lay there sleepin’, I read the paper in bed
And in the personal columns there was this letter I read
Get ready for it . . .
‘If you like Pina Coladas, getting caught in the rain
If you’re not into yoga, if you have half a brain
If you like making love at midnight in the dunes on the cape
I’m the love that you’ve looked for write to me and escape’
Arghhhhhhhh! I hate this song. Hate it. It gets into your head and just stays there, and it is the worst possible song ever about the worst possible people. I guess I should show you more, in case somehow you have managed to miss it.
I didn’t think about my lady, I know that sounds kinda mean
But me and my old lady had fallen into the same old dull routine
So I wrote to the paper, took out a personal ad
And though I’m nobody’s poet, I thought it wasn’t half bad
I’m bored so I’m gonna go cheat on my wife! Yay! Check out my song! It’s so awesome!
“Yes, I like Pina Coladas and getting caught in the rain
I’m not much into health food, I am into champagne
I’ve got to meet you by tomorrow noon and cut through all this red tape
At a bar called O’Malleys where we’ll plan our escape”
Yes! I DO like Pina Coladas! Also standing in rain! I like getting drunk! Also cheating on my wife! How about you? Of course if you know the rest of the song, it turns out his wife likes cheating on her husband too, cause that’s who shows up in response to the personal ad! Isn’t that romantic? They’re both totally untrustworthy jerks, but at least they found out they both like pina coladas and standing in the rain and cheating on each other!
Now technically this song is called “Escape” and it’s by Jimmy Buffet who also wrote a song about Margaritaville, which is probably where this pina colada guy escaped to after he figured out he had VD. But enough of that. The point is, no matter how awful this song is, it sticks in your head, and no one remembers the “escape” part. They just remember “If you like pina coladas, if you like pina coladas, blah blah make it stop, make it stopppp!”
Yes, I know, I’m responsible for another earworm, but the challenge made me do it. If it gets too bad, go have a pina colada.
Day 4 (just pretend): Highway to Hell
Okay, so I missed yesterday of the Neverending Song Story because of the Mucus from Hell. If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making that crap. I’m sure you’re delighted I filled you in there.
Anyway, I was supposed to list a song that calms me down AND WHY. Yeah, if there was one, I might have posted yesterday whilst all mellow on my song choice. But Mellow Yellow tends to make me twitch, so maybe not. Instead I will go with my original idea of the comforting little ballad “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC. Sometimes screaming songs are nice when you need to shout, shout, let it all out.
The best thing about this song is the inspirational lyrics. Observe:
I’m on the highway to hell
On the highway to hell
Highway to hell
I’m on the highway to hell
(highway to hell) I’m on the highway to hell
(highway to hell) highway to hell
(highway to hell) highway to hell
(highway to hell)
If only I could understand what he’s trying to SAY here. Any guesses? Oh, and one other reason I love this song. It’s especially funny when a four-year-old sings it as Thing One once did. “Hiiiiiwaaaay to Heyelllll!” Laughter and screaming are the best medicine, are they not?
Day 3: Battle of New Orleans
Oh, right, it’s day 3 of this wretched 25 days of song. This one is supposed to be a song that reminds one of a parent(s). There were a lot I could have chosen, like “Cats in the Cradle”, except my parents weren’t totally absent from my life and that song is quite possibly the worst song ever, ever, ever known to man. There’s also “Butterfly Kisses” if you want to vomit or “Daddy’s Hands” if you want a song about how your dad beat the crap out of you with love.
Then I remembered the song “A Battle of New Orleans”. This is a really old song, from the 50’s, but that’s okay because it’s about something even older, the War of 1812. I think of my father when I hear this song because he is a huge history buff, as am I. The man can name all our presidents, in order, with their vice presidents, and the men who ran against them.
Our country has a short history, but we make it count. If all you’ve ever seen of American history is a textbook, you are most unfortunate. I’m not sure how they do it, but somehow textbook writers manage to suck all the interesting parts out of history and leave you with mind numbingly boring facts. But if you get a good teacher, history comes alive. It did with my father, who was my first teacher.
One thing America loves more than anything is the tale of the underdog defeating the much larger force. The British had a huge trained, disciplined fighting force whereas we had a small group of random angry guys. Of course, the British were already divided what with also fighting Napolean in France at the same time, but nevermind that. We beat ’em! Not because we were all that skilled or honorable, but specifically because we were devious little upstarts, which the British probably should have remembered from the Revolutionary War.
But wait, this is supposed to be about my father. Well, one other thing we liked to do together besides talk history was sing. Neither of us was a particularly good singer, but we liked it anyway. And this song, “The Battle of New Orleans”, exemplifies both in a catchy song about actual history. Though they might have made up the part about using an alligator butt as a cannon.
In order to make it more appealing to some of you with intense dislike of country music or history, I have left you a video acting out the song through lego people. You’re welcome.
Day 2: Dreamtime
So how much of this challenge is left . . . oh crap.
Right, so, today I’m supposed to find a song that reminds me of my most recent ex-boyfriend. I’ve been married for 16 years. All in a row and to the same man and everything. So it’s been a while since I’ve had an ex-boyfriend. And since I married at 22, I didn’t exactly have a lot of boyfriends. I had one, to be exact, unless you count that guy I made out with a few times in high school that wanted to blow up the government. For a while I wondered if I would see him on the news and be like, whoa, that terrorist dude – we totally made out.
But back to the one boyfriend. He was 6’4″, blond hair, blue eyes – perfect Nazi material. Except he was a knight in shining armor. Kind of. We met when I was on vacation visiting my best friend, summer of ’97, and it was one of those “we saw each other across a crowded room oh wow this is so cliche but we both thought the other was hawt” kind of moments. He and my friend were in this organization called the SCA or Society of Creative Anachronisms. That’s a fancy way of saying people who like to dress up in medieval costumes and drink. It was way cool.
So you can see why this was the perfect recipe for total disaster. To say I was a daydreamer would be an understatement. I loved fantasy – stories of knights and princesses and medieval times – or at least the medieval times without the beheadings and plague and poop in the streets. So then I found myself in a literal fantasy world, with a fantasy guy, and I fell in fantasy love. Just like that.
It was intense, to say the least. It also crashed and burned fairly quickly, as most long distance relationships do, but it was a high I had never experienced before and never will again. I love my husband. He is the right one for me. But it’s not the same. He’s real. And Eric was not. At least, I never had the time to really see how real he was. We acted a fantasy, and then the fantasy ended.
So the song I would choose would be “Dreamtime” by Daryl Hall. This song was written during a brief split he had from John Oates, and was the only successful song on his album. Still probably forgotten by most. The two ended up getting back together, probably because Daryl was in dreamtime to think he had the brains to manage a career by himself.
Anyway, here are some of the lines that I think fit:
You turn a corner and you see a door
Walk on through, throw yourself on the floor
Oh, when you’re looking up, it’s no surprise
Standing there is a man with movie star eyes
You think he’s gonna take care of you
The man with the plan that’ll see you through
And I say there ain’t no way
‘Cause I know he’s a lie
You’re living in dreamtime, baby (you want to run away)
It’s time to wake up, ooh
You’re living on dreamtime, baby (you want to run away)
It’s time to shape up, shape up
And so I did wake up. And came crashing down. I thought I would never, ever love again. Until I found my husband. And married him a year after I broke up with my first true love. It hasn’t been sunshine and roses. It has been hard as hell. But he isn’t a lie, and I’m no longer sleeping.
I’ve left the video here for you. Yeah, it’s cheesy 80s, but it has some beautiful imagery. There’s also a bit of Alice in Wonderland thrown in there (imagine that!). The violin solo at the end is my very favorite part. Enjoy.
Day 1: La Cucaracha
Okay, if you’ll remember, we’re doing this 25 songs, 25 days challenge – cause no way can any of us make an entire month here – in which we discuss songs. Songs that are meaningful based on some random list of criteria, like songs that remind you of ex-boyfriends (anything by Taylor Swift will do, won’t it?) or your parents (I’m bettin’ on Twindaddy’s being “A Boy Named Sue”), etc.
First prompt asks for a song from your childhood AND an explanation of why you picked it. In other words essay, not fill in the blank, students. To that I say – what childhood? I was raised by wolves until I was four. Then I was captured by Disney and forced to slave 18 hours a day in a sweat shop making Mickey Mouse ears. Until I escaped and ran away to Vegas where I made a living as a gambler and doled out advice to Kenny Rogers. Know when to hold ’em. Know when to fold ’em.
Okay, fine, my childhood was not that interesting. I was born in 1976, back before The Internet. Yea, truly, it wast the dark ages. Back then we didn’t need artists like Lady Gaga to be bizarre. We had Madonna and Cyndi Lauper and we were HAPPY, darn it.
At first I thought I would talk about Cyndi, cause I remember how much I loved her song “She Bop”. I sang that song like I was the most awesome nine-year-old on the planet. This was before I realized what the song was about. Thanks a lot, Cracked.
Speaking of disillusionment, in kindergarten we all sang a song called “La cucaracha”, a charming little Spanish song about . . . wait, what? Okay, here are the lyrics as I remember singing them as a child.
La cucaracha, La cucaracha
Blah blah blady blady blah
Yo do mo pretty
Oh yeah me quatro
La la la la la la la
Or something like that. In other words, I had no idea what I was singing. And likely neither did the teacher, unless she had some sort of twisted sense of humor. Here are the Spanish lyrics I learned in Spanish class in high school (this was the coolest day of Spanish class ever).
La cucaracha, La cucaracha
Yo no puede caminar
Porque no tiene, porque le falta
Cigarillos de fumar
Translation? According to my Spanish teacher, this was a song about a prostitute who could not walk because she did not have her weed. Cockroach was not a bug, it was another word for marijuana as in “Pass me that roach, man.” Yet for some reason they use cigarettes in the last line.
Anyway, just wow. I mean, how on earth is this song even remotely appropriate for little kids? I mean, sure we didn’t know what we were singing (we were a bunch of little whitey kids mostly) but seriously? Then I started looking up tthe song on the Internet just now and guess what I found? That wasn’t true EITHER. I’m starting to feel like I did when I realized that Jeremiah the Bullfrog shared his mighty fine wine, not that we had a mighty fine time. (Nice one, music teacher.)
I suppose technically it is hard to tell what is true, since there are so many versions. Most of them use marijuana instead of cigarillos, so I didn’t even have the right Spanish lines. Others (the cleaned up ones) just talk about a cockroach that loses its leg and can’t walk. Another version is about a cockroach who has had too much weed and can’t walk. I wonder if the cockroach smoked a bowl while Jeremiah drank? If so, I bet they had a mighty fine time.
So what is the lesson I learned as a child from this “children’s song”? You cannot trust adults, they will only lie to you. And they won’t share their wine either. Adults stink. La la la!