Unshelved by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum
comic strip overdue media

Monday, August 21, 2006

So I'm reading an older version of

For Reading Out Loud! by Margaret Mary Kimmel and Elizabeth Segal as a way of preparing myself for the storytimes in the lobby--their book covers various aspects of reading to pre-schoolers to teens, techniques, book suggestions, etc.--and I come to it.

Sounder by William Armstrong. It is one of two books I remember being read to as a child. This one was when I was in third grade, aged 7, in our school. I remember the library and what it looked like. I remember the voice, the cadence that brought it alive, though not the person himself. This, mind you, from a person who can't remember much of anything from her childhood. It made a powerful impact on me for the reasons it should--the sharecropper family and their woes, the injustice doled out to people based on their race, etc. So much so that even today I own a copy, although I have never read it on my own. But it made a far greater impact on me for another reason--it had as one of its main characters a dog, a dog that was shot, who is thought dead, and who returns after great pain to be reunited with his boy, just as the father eventually reunites with the family.

Even as I write this, I'm crying. Maybe it's that I'm a little hormonal, but Sounder always stops me dead in my tracks. I was an overly-sensitive child--insert crybaby if you want--and the one sure way to scare me was to put an animal in danger. I was nearly banned from watching "Lassie" as a child. Even the music still brings up fear and love for the dog mixed together. I was banned from watching a show on Saturday mornings called "Run, Joe, Run", which was about a German shepherd who was pursued for killing someone that he had not. It was a sort of 'doggie' "Fugitive". The dog was in danger week after week and it made me so upset I was forbidden to watch it. In my case, "Sounder" had the additional situation that is described in the Kimmel/Segal book ironically a paragraph or two down, about how care must be taken in choosing books for a group, because some books that otherwise are fine for children will scare a sensitive child, and in storytime you have a captive audience. The child may be afraid to admit he or she is afraid or leave the area, whereas if a book he or she is reading alone disurbs, then it's easy to just stop reading it.

I never really got over that sensitivity. I have never seen Disney's Old Yeller and never plan to. I had to leave during the second showing of Dances With Wolves when the wolf and horse die. (Another lady who knew what was coming was hiding out in the bathroom with me.) I nearly lost it and it took a lot of willpower not to leave the classroom when listening to Gurney Norman, my teacher, reading a James Still story in which a dog in heat is shot and killed for no good reason whatsoever (well, because other dogs were congregating around her and causing a ruckus) in a shocking turn I didn't see coming.

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