Why I read, edit, and write (Part 1)

In which Brian builds a bookshelf, and Jean re-reads the timeless children’s classic, The Poky Little Puppy

When Brian and I moved to Mumbai, we each sacrificed some things we cherished. He put his Harley in storage and sold 90% of his tools. My sacrifices included my two custom-built (by Brian), seven-foot-tall, absolute-pain-in-the-neck-to-move, barely-fits-through-the-doorway, much-loved, oak, barrister bookcases—and the books kept within them.

A friend asked me the other day how I got into reading, editing, and writing.

“I’ve always read,” I said. “I’ve been reading since I was four.”

Later, I started thinking about those first books, the ones that have stuck with me. Some were gifts, others required reading in school. What if I had to choose a book to represent a different phase in my life, a seminal work that informed or changed my life? Where would I start?

The Poky Little Puppy
Janette Sebring Lowrey
1942
Read at age 4

Unfortunately, I no longer have this book, but here’s a video of someone reading it.

The Poky Little Puppy remains one of the best-selling children’s books in the US. Part of the original 12 Little Golden Books, The Poky Little Puppy tells the tale of an adventurous puppy who ventures out on his own, away from his misbehaving brothers. His curiosity is rewarded with dessert on several successive nights, until he misses dessert entirely because his brothers filled in the hole they dug. The mama dog rewards the contrite brothers with dessert, and the poky little puppy misses out in the end.

I love the “roly-poly, pell-mell” language, but if I’m supposed to learn anything from the story, I’m at a loss. As I reviewed this story to write this post, it left me wondering, “what the hell?” Usually, children’s books have morals to the stories, but I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to learn here. Sherri at Working Mother was also confused by the moral of the story. As she says:

If you’re bad, you don’t get dessert, but if you’re bad and late, you get everyone else’s dessert.  In the end the poky little puppy also misses dessert but by then he’s already had more than his fair share anyway.

On Goodreads, the daughter of one fan noted, if the puppies had eaten the chocolate custard, they would all be dead. That child will make a great editor one day.

At first, the poky little puppy is rewarded for being curious and following his own path. Then, his puppy brothers block the poky little puppy’s path home, and he starves. Even though the poky little puppy breaks the rules without impunity for some time, in the end, he suffers the consequences.

According to Hazel-Eyed Beauty:

The lesson the child is to walk away with is to listen to you parents and don’t break the rules, when one is broken it is best to learn from your mistakes. Also that groups, or peer pressure can be bad or it can be good.

I should probably give The Poky Little Puppy a break. After all, we still sing lullabies where babies fall from trees and children die of plague. I think a rule-breaking puppy is an acceptable read. Nevertheless, it becomes clear that I was indoctrinated at a young age into the “always follow the rules” club. I’ve always loved rules, dogs, and reading thanks to The Poky Little Puppy.

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2 thoughts on “Why I read, edit, and write (Part 1)

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