Sunday, May 6, 2012

To Understand What Loving a Dog Means

Recommended for Grades 3-6

I’m just going to come straight out and say that I almost stopped listening to the audio book of Each Little Bird That Sings by Deborah Wiles right in the middle of the story.  Reason being is that if I think an animal in a story is dead or is going to die, I can’t handle the story—I shutdown.  I have an overwhelming emotional pull when it comes to dogs and I can’t even walk through the Humane Society without crying. 

Wiles’ protagonist, Comfort, has a dog named Dismay, who is all love and loyalty.  The climax in the story is when there is a flash flood that Comfort, her cousin Peach, and Dismay get caught in.  Dismay is swept away in the flood waters, but Comfort has this eternal hope for him that kept me listening to the book.  And yes, I yelled at the book when that suspenseful scene ended—“Did she just kill off the dog?!  I CAN’T believe she would do that!  I will never read another Wiles book.  Well, maybe she didn’t…. (denial with a false sense of hope, oh goody…)

Comfort’s family owns the town’s funeral home and so she has grown up surrounded by death, but it hasn’t created a dysfunctional family, if anything it bonded her family.  The family’s motto is, “We live to serve,” and that they do.  Each family member acted as a team player.  Comfort has to face loss that she wasn’t expecting in the beginning of the story, when her Uncle Edisto and Aunt Florentine pass away.

I love all of Wiles' characters, but Comfort Snowberger steals the show and rightfully so—she writes her own “life notices” (her version of obituaries), her spot to ponder the world is her closet, she has to live with and accept that her best friend has become a ‘mean girl’, be annoyed by her little cousin Peach, and work through her grief. 

She becomes lost in a world unfamiliar to her without the ones she loves, even if her mother, father, and brother are still there for her.  She ends up taking her grief out on Peach, who is so innocent (even if whiny and over-dramatic), that he still chooses to adore and be Comfort’s shadow whenever he can.  And when I say over-dramatic, I mean in the ‘have to stop Aunt Florentine’s viewing because Peach decided to attach himself to her IN her casket and bawl the words, “Come back!”’

The search for Dismay changed both Comfort and Peach.  And I have to say that Wiles has written an endearing tribute to dogs and their humans, as well as family.  I’m very satisfied that I finished the story.

Wiles, d. (2005). Each little bird that sings. Orlando, FL: Harcourt.

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