Sunday, October 08, 2006

Roxie's Reading: Chester

Okay, fans, we've got something new for you here in Roxie's World today. I know that blog afficionadoes crave novelty, as your restless fingers click from one thing to another quicker than a hungry dog racing from the couch to his supper bowl on steak night. To satisfy your craving, I am offering the first in a series of book reviews, my unique take on literary works related to dogs, dog owners, dog-human love, and a dog's eye view of the world. It is the next logical step in the evolution of my role as cultural maven. My moms the English profs thought it was high time I showed off my book-learning (and my Aunt Faye, the radical militant librarian from Tulsa, has greatly enhanced my collection of Dog Lit recently!), so here we go. First up is a book for young readers that has gotten a lot of attention on The Stephanie Miller Show, because it was written by Stephanie's best friend and is all about Stephanie's late Saint Bernard Chester, who died suddenly in April. (See my heart-breaking memorial tribute to Chester here.) The book is called Chester, the Water-Loving, Pool-Hopping, Salad-Eating, St Bernard Dog, and it's written by Leslie Rockitter. (You can read about the book and purchase it here.) Chester is the heart-warming story of the relationship between a St Bernard pup and a young girl named Allyson, who falls in love with the blue-eyed pup and takes him home despite the fact that her family already has two HUGE dogs (Puffy, a Great Pyrenees, and PooBear, a Newfoundland) and a new baby (Allyson's sister Emily). Allyson's parents miraculously agree to let her keep the latest addition to the family, after half-heartedly opposing the idea and getting Allyson to promise to clean up after the dog and do extra chores. The rest of the story is devoted to Chester's efforts to establish his place in the pack with the pretentious Puffy and the dim-witted PooBear. The book's title telegraphs the story's major plot elements, which involve Chester's fondness for vegetables, his prodigious thirst, and a couple of accidental tumbles into swimming pools. Slowly but surely, he earns not just his place in the pack but in everybody's heart, even that of snooty alpha-dog Puffy.

I give this book Four Paws (out of a possible five) for its sweet story and adorable illustrations. Chester is a fully believable young pup, and Allyson is a plucky girl willing to fight for her heart's desires. We all know how important it is to fight for the creatures and things you love--whether it's a puppy or a friend or a political ideal (such as peace or justice or equality for families). My only criticism of Chester is that it exhibits the unfortunate bias toward large breeds that I have noted in progressive radio goddess Stephanie Miller. Fans of Roxie's World know that I have worked closely with Ms. Miller to address this bigotry, particularly since I assumed my role as Official Dog Blogger to The Stephanie Miller Show. We have made progress in opening Ms. Miller's eyes to the virtues of dogs who don't leave mounds of hair and large buckets of drool behind them. She realizes now that terms like "high-strung" have no place in the vocabularly of a fighter for democratic values and that terms like "busy" and "trembling with the desire for a better world" should replace such stigmatizing language. Chester was written before I had a chance to point out to Ms. Miller the errors in her thinking. Here's hoping a second edition of the book will feature an encounter between Chester and a smart, sleek terrier who might suggest, in a mild British accent, that the next time he is thirsty he should demand that Allyson put out some water in an elegant Waterford bowl, which would be so much more dignified than diving into a swimming pool for a drink.

In the meantime, I am pleased to give Chester Four Paws and a Roxie's World Seal of Approval. Buy it! Read it! Give it to a young reader who loves a dog, wants a dog, or believes that love is a lick on the face that makes everything better.

5 comments:

  1. Dudley the Beagle12:36 AM EDT

    Thank you for this book suggestion. We are going to a 'reading to dogs' session at the library. This is a Pets on Wheels program that gets kids to practice reading by reading to dogs. We're good to read to because we don't correct them and we're very good listeners. I will see if I can get one of the kids to read me that book.

    So, Roxie, you have STEAK NIGHT? How did you swing that with your humans? I could use some tips! (Sirloin tips, to be specific!)

    Dudley

    ReplyDelete
  2. I love the idea of dogs helping kids learn to read. I wonder if kids could help dogs learn to chase their tails or to snore more loudly. Oh, I guess we don't need much help on developing those skills, huh?

    As for steak night, yes, after holding out on me for many years when they were pseudo-semi-vegetarians, my moms started eating meat at home, and my love for them grew by leaps and bounds and filets and tenderloins. I don't know why they ever eat anything else, but they retain a perverse fondness for tofu. :(

    ReplyDelete
  3. MF Hadley2:43 AM EDT

    Roxie, Roxie, Roxie,
    Where are your manners? I know that you were not reared in a barn. This is your Auntie Faye who is the tiniest bit hurt that you didn't mention who sent you your copy of "Chester." Perhaps I am being too sensitive, but as a librarian, I am very cognizant of books in people's and dogs' lives and would have thought that you would have at least given a little shout out to the person who sent the book to you. However, I thoroughly enjoyed your review and look forward to future reviews.
    Love & Kisses,
    Auntie Faye

    ReplyDelete
  4. Oh, dear, Aunt Faye, I am so sorry! Let's blame it on Moose, who must have been into the boxed wine when she was typing up this post and missed a crucial acknowledgment of your vital contribution. Please hit your refresh button and read it again.

    Gratefully,
    Roxie

    ReplyDelete
  5. Dudley the Beagle7:12 PM EDT

    Lucky you, Roxie, to have an Aunt Faye who gives you great books like that! The book my Aunt Sheila gave us was "Walter, Canis Inflatus," which is "Walter the Farting Dog" in Latin. It is an interesting book in its way, but I am MUCH more impressive than Walter!

    Dudley

    ReplyDelete

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.