I love me some dog stories (pardon my inexcusable grammar). Lucky for me, this week’s Newbery book was just that. Meet Shiloh, a shy beagle whose owner treats him poorly. Then meet Marty, an 11-year old boy who stumbles upon Shiloh in the woods and then can’t seem to shake him. When I met these characters my pessimistic brain immediately thought: oh great. i’m going to get all attached and then the dog is going to die and i’m going to be heartbroken. Actually, I am happy to report that I was 100% wrong. Shiloh lives!
Stylistically speaking, I was a little disappointed when I started reading and realized it was one of “those” books. You know, the one where it’s in the first person and the grammar is more “back woods” than anything else. It’s hard for my brain to slip into this kind of writing, but once I’m a few chapters in I actually do enjoy it. It kind of makes you want to talk like in that every day life because of its certain rhythm.
The relationship between Marty and Shiloh is really sweet, and soft-hearted as I can be at times all I wanted to do while reading this story was cuddle up to my own little “Shiloh,” or as she’s known around these parts, Fran. But what draws the reader’s attention here is not necessarily the cute, cuddly parts; rather, it’s the struggle between telling the truth because it’s what right versus telling a lie because it protects someone you love. I think we’ve all had the scenario presented to us: if your mom needed medicine but you didn’t have enough money to get it would you steal it? She’d die unless you got her that medicine. What is the more important virtue? Saving a life or lying? In Shiloh it isn’t as dramatic as all that, but Marty is faced with protecting Shiloh from Judd Travers (the abusive, neglectful owner) and in the process must start lying to his family, friends and people in town. At first he tells himself that they aren’t really lies…just omissions of the truth, and he’s doing it to protect Shiloh. But as the story progresses the lies grow bigger and Marty truly does dig himself a metaphorical grave. Of course, everything turns out okay but I found it interesting that when his dad finds out about Marty hiding the dog this conversation transpires:
“There isn’t a word passed between us till we get home. Once Dad turns the motor off, though, and I’m all set to get out, he says, “Marty, what else don’t I know?”
“What?” I ask.
“You keeping Judd’s dog up there on the hill–got a place for him all built, never letting on. What else you keeping from me?”‘ (Shiloh, 93)
Even if Marty had only told one lie his father was right in having a hard time believing anything he had to say. That’s what sucks about lies. Even if it’s just one you almost immediately become discreditable in the eyes of those around you. And building trust after it’s lost, as we have probably all experienced, is long and painful.
Anyway, I loved it. Anytime a well-written children’s story has a strong moral issue running through it that invites questions during or after the reading is a-ok in my book.
In other news Forrest and I are vaccinated from the swine flu and my hypochondriac mind can take a somewhat sigh of relief. (Somewhat because is a hypochondriac’s mind ever at rest?) Last weekend we took a trip up to Hood River, OR and drove what’s commonly known as the “Fruit Loop” and took in breathtaking views of fall colors, Mt Hood, and country living. We also bought some apple cider, pear wine, pumpkins (which will be carved today), and apple butter. Tonight we are planning on handing out candy to any kids who dare come to our door and hopefully scare the wits out of them.
Happy Halloween and Happy Fall from our house to yours.
Till next time…