Oct 2, 2012

The blog in which I share another children's book. Sorta.

I was volunteering in the school library the other day when I came across this gem.  If you know us, you know we have become Collie obsessed since rescuing our Brody, last November.  He truly fills a void that was hollowed after Tai passed, just over two years ago.  We have come to appreciate the innate nurturing and protective ways that comes with the breed, as well as the gentle, loving, and playful side that Brody shares with us each moment of each day.

So, I was so excited to find this book, and I was so much more excited since the author, Rosemary Wells is the same writer that authored Charlie's weekly story that was sent home from his reading teacher.  Rosemary Wells is a well known author for her Max and Ruby stories.  So, Charlie was even more excited that the same day he received that story in  his book from class, he checked out this "Lassie Come-Home" book.  Well, we sat down to read it last night.  I knew it would be a couple of night's worth of reading, so we read a small book that they wanted to A.R. test on this morning, then began reading from the Lassie book.

Let me give you a synopsis here, page by page.  Spoiler alert- Timmy is not stuck in a well.  Oh how I wish he was.  This is all sorts of messed up.

The story is set in England, in a small, and seemingly, impoverished town, many years ago.  It was rewritten in 1995 by Rosemary Wells, yet it was adapted from a 1938 edition from Eric Knight.

Chapter one, page one- a brief description of Lassie, and how well loved she was by everyone.   It seemed generic, and could have been applied to any dog, any year, of any breed.  By the second paragraph, we learn that Lassie was sold by the father in the family for money because he lost his job in the mines, and  she was worth more than three week's worth of wages.  Way to sell out, Dad.  Prick.  Oh, sorry.  That's not right.  Let's move on.  Joe leaves school and sees that his trustworthy companion, Lassie, is not at the corner of the school yard, and immediately panicked.  He raced home and burst through the door asking what happened to his beloved, Lassie.  His mother very straight faced told him that he was sold and that it was time for him to have his tea.  WTH?  Really?  The only ray of light in your world is gone- let's have some tea.  Wow.  I don't have a degree of any sort, but I have to think that the long term effect of this sort of treatment has got to be detrimental.  Well, we know that tea does stain teeth, but I'm sure they had to know this back in the 1930's, right?  And let's not gloss over the fact that his beloved family pet has been sold while he went off to school.  Out of the corner of my eyes, I catch a glimpse of Shay wiping her eyes under her glasses.

Freakin' A!  Where's my dog?  She couldn't have been run over.  Cars haven't been invented yet. 
Page two- Joe's father is sitting in a chair, facing the fireplace, unable to explain his actions.  He hears the anguish in his son's young voice over the news, and storms out of the house, knocking the chair over in the hurried movement.  Great.   No sense of responsibility or anger management.  Nice.  I really don't think I like this man.  Then, his mother urges him to eat.  I wonder if there were Jewish mothers in that little village in the 1930's.

Anger Management- it starts with a chair. 
Page 3- The mere mention of Lassie's unused brush sitting there on the fireplace caused my breathe to "hitch" as I read, and I begin to hear Shay sucking up snot that must be beginning to form.  (I remember that moment like it was yesterday when I saw the unused dog brush.  Oh, wait.  It was yesterday.  I was too busy volunteering at school and doing homework with the migits to brush Brody's fur.  Never mind.)  This page talks about the poverty that is rampant in the village, and how prevalent the dire situations were in these times.  Then, it goes on to say that as hard and long as Joe's father would work in the mines each day, it was him, the same bastard that sold him, that would take the time to brush his Lassie out each night.  I must say, I am warming to this man covered in coal.  Brushing out a Collie is time consuming and delicate work.  When I look to Shay, she murmurs something about how she doesn't know why, but her eyes are watering.

Page 4- Talks about how all the men in the village were chronically ill from the coal dust they inhaled. And yet, they all smoke a pipe.  Might as well.  None of them can breathe right from all the coal they inhale.  Yes, I have a cut.  Please give me a knife so that I can make it bleed more.  That makes sense, right?

Page 5- This page explains and shows how the children of that time were not allowed to show emotion, and cried quietly, if at all, alone.  (Shay, at this time, sees the picture of Lassie in a cage, forlorn, and alone.  And again, I see her wiping her eyes.)  Damn it.  I tried to emphasize the part about how those kids kept all their emotion inside.  It's not even her dog.  Why the hell does she have to get all upset? Then, it goes on to tell how Lassie was "Joe's bright light in a strict grey world."  "Lassie was Joe's laughter before he would have to grow up and follow his father into the pit."  Okay, here's where I am confused.  Why bother?  I mean, why get a formal education if all you plan on doing was going to the same mining business that your father, grandfather, and all the men before you were born into?  If he hadn't gone to school, maybe he would have been there to prevent the sale of his dog.  Just sayin'.

Lassie was only three miles away, and had been sold to the Duke.  The Duke was an ass.  You'll see.  Trust me.  Lassie was in a kennel with thirty other dogs, and "her spirits heavy, she lay still all night."  I don't have heavy spirits, but I lay still all night too.  Damn.  I wonder if I have "heavy spirits?"  That would be horrible.  Here I am thinking I am doing great, and then, bam!  I've been undiagnosed with "heavy spirits."  That would suck.
This is what "heavy spirits" looks like.  I thought that meant vodka.  I thought wrong. 
Page 6- We are introduced to the Duke again as he and his granddaughter go horseback riding into the village and stop for tea and a scone.  WTH is a scone?  Oh wait.  You mean a biscuit?  Why do you have to make up some fancy words just to say that?  The Brit's and their "proper" English... Priscilla notices the men all standing around waiting for the slightest job to be posted, and asks her Grandfather, the Duke, about it.  He seems to not notice the poor conditions, or the men, as he stains his teeth and enjoys some fancy bread.  This page didn't seem to illicit much emotion from the girl migit.   The boy migit is stoic.  OR autistic.  Oh, wait a second... right.  About that.

Page 7-  The granddaughter comments on how the new collie, Lassie, doesn't look happy.  And of course, the Duke said he had noticed that, as he notices things that effect him.  Like, Lassie not being happy will not produce a win at the shows for him.  And yes, of course that is what the Duke bought her for.  The granddaughter saved some of the scone for Lassie, but when Priscilla went to give it to her, she was gone.

Page 8- Oh, this is a wonderful page.  Lassie has managed to dig out of the kennels and when Joe is let out of school on this day, Lassie is sitting right there waiting for him!  They ran home together in sheer bliss, and then...

Page 9- Mother and Father burst his bubble, and neither welcomed Lassie home with a warm greeting.   The Duke barged into the house like he owned it, and suggested that they had trained the dog to escape and they probably planned on reselling her before the hour was up.  The father put the leash on the dog and walked him out to the Duke.

If I wrote the book, I would have ended the book where they are reunited. But I didn't write this book.  All I get is a rinky-dink blog.  And now all you get is a sad story about a dog and a little girl who gets "watery eyes" from the sad dog story.   
The next few pages are more of the same, and finally, I had to stop- before the chapter even ended.  The last time Lassie ran away from the Duke, Joe's mother tells Joe that HE must be the one to tell Lassie she has to stay, and he must be strong, for Lassie.  Joe tells Lassie, "Stay, girl.  Never, never come back to us.  We don't want you home anymore."  That's it!  Shay was done.  She couldn't handle the book giving her "watery eyes."  I looked at her and she gave me the biggest hug.  She was so sad.  I  just about shed a tear too, but I decided to close the book, and suggested, even though it was late, that we, as a family, go have a little Mario Kart tournament.

Yeah.  That's how we roll.  We have 26 pages to go, and that amounts to about 17 tissues, and probably, three more nights of Mario Kart tourney's.  I better start learning to blink.  My contact popped out while I was playing last night.  I should have Shay read me the book as I play.  That might solve my dry eye issue ;o)

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