Another late post I’m afraid, but hey, we are keeping this book Advent going! Today’s book is a sweet paperback from my childhood. Opening this story floods me with memories: my favorite pictures, the sad puppy, the even more sad and parentless boy! I truly believe that what you read as a child affects who you become as an adult and this book can definitely be included in my makeup. Let’s take a look at a tender story, a classic, even if a bit saccharine and tear-jerking. This is The Puppy Who Wanted a Boy by Jane Thayer, illustrated by Lisa McCue, 1985.
The little pup of the title is sweet Petey who requests a boy for Christmas. His mother searches in vain to find a boy for him but returns to give him the sad news. She suggests Petey try to convince another dog to give up his boy which Petey begins with gusto. He is quickly deterred, however, as he continues to receive disgruntled and downright angry responses. Tired and sad, Petey wanders past a Home for Boys where he not only gets cuddled by one boy, but is taken in by fifty boys who all beg to keep him! It is indeed a happy Christmas for him and all those boys.
This is such a fascinating piece of literature. While my version comes from 1985 with Lisa McCue’s illustrations, the story originates with Jane Thayer’s text from 1958. The datedness is not a glaring issue, but something definitely worth noting. This book would not be written the same today, and if it was, I regret to think that it would be soppy and full of some didactic lesson or charitable group putting it out. Forgive me if I sound cynical about those types of books, but I am. They are not often done well. I am not shy about my general distaste for overly moral-pushing books.
This story however is considered a bit of a classic and I love it for its sweetness as well as my nostalgia. There are so many emotions experienced with this book. Emotions that I can recall from my childhood readings and that I felt again as I read it to my daughter for the first time today. There is anticipation for a big Christmas present that will change Petey’s life. Fear as other dogs get meaner and gruffer in response. Wonder at the idea of children without a family. And joy over something so small and sweet as a puppy being snuggled as he so desired. These are big emotions dealt with in a gentle and safe way. It might be a story with a Hallmark-channel kind of feel, and maybe my judgment is clouded by my nostalgia, but I think there is more depth to it. Something connects with children over the years that made it last and garner new illustrations several times over nearly 30 years. It is a sweet, Christmas story that I find myself analyzing a little too much at this late hour. And yet, I just came back to one of my favorite lines, “He forgot about being tired.” That’s a good place to end this review. I sincerely hope dear friends, that no matter what your crazy Christmas schedule looks like, that you find joy in something so immeasurably small like a sweet cuddle that it makes you forget how incredibly tired your busyness has made you. Thanks little Petey for reminding me of that.
Follow along our book adventure at 25 Days of Christmas Books 2014!