Saint John Don Bosco:

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"

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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Dogs Heroes of September 11th by Nona Kilgore Bauer

I find it hard to read about 9-11. But this book tells as much by pictures as by words, and I thought that helped in handling the horror: the pictures focus on the dogs that worked at Ground Zero and at the Pentagon. The text is the words of their handlers about the search and rescue work they did together right after the tragedy. Strikingly, it was mostly a search effort. The handlers convey the dedication and the devastation in a deep way that by focusing on the dogs helps keep the worst of the evil day at bay while conveying the reality well-enough.

One of the things that impressed me about the work of these dogs and their handlers: they learned quickly that few-to-no lives would be saved. The dogs never gave up looking, even when limited to alerting for remains. In the midst of this depressing environment, the dogs became therapy workers, providing a remarkable amount of comfort and brief moments of respite to all the workers who stopped to pet and interact with them.

It struck me hard that the dogs, who barked to alert for a live find, would spend long shifts with no barking... and would bark in their sleep... dreaming of a live rescue...

Another part of the book that impressed me was the consistent comments from the handlers about the fact that their dogs, while hard-working and dedicated, were not the heroes: the heroes were the ones who knew what they were heading into and gave up their lives in their decision to help others.

Nonetheless, the love between dog and handler, the loyalty and commitment and the dedicated hard work of these exceptional dogs resonates as a reflection of the human heroes of 9-11.

The book includes descriptions of the dogs' training, vet care, memorials dedicated to their work, and it covers the work they did on Staten Island helping to sort remains. At the Pentagon, evey family member received closure and some sort of burial thanks to their work. It's quite a story.

Unless you have a dedicated dog-lover in your household (we do), you may not read every vignette of every dog told here, but I hope your library has this book. I highly recommend it as a teaching tool to pull out next Sept. 11 or when your child asks questions about Sept. 11. Pictures... and dogs... can speak a thousand words.

SAFETY RATING: 3 Flags for older tweens. Heavy topic.


Beth,  February 22, 2011 at 8:18 AM  

Thanks for this wonderful review. My 11-year-old son (a very strong, voracious reader) has so far accepted our explanation that we need to be extremely picky about books because they shape our minds. He's been reading children's classics for years. But he told me recently that he really wants to read books that would be of interest to anybody--adults as well as children--and not only books that are just for children. At school, he picked up The Screwtape Letters and read it, before I was aware that he was doing this. (?!?) Not what I would have chosen for him, but probably not going to hurt him any, even though he's really not old enough for it. But this alerted me to the fact that he is really in need of some deeper experiences of the world, in his reading. I would say that he's feeling a longing to be part of the culture that my husband and I and our other adult family members share. He doesn't act cool and try to be a teenager. Rather, he's trying to make his way toward being more grown up. This just seems so natural to me. He also said not long ago that he wants to learn about what's happening in the world for real. He doesn't want to be exposed to things that are bad for him, and he knows that possibility looms. But...he wants to know what's going on in the world, good and bad, so he can understand. We are trying now to honor his wishes and just bought a subscription to National Geographic. Trepidation is in my heart. This is the first questionable, challenging (in fact so often truly heartrending and disturbing) material we have ever brought into our son's world intentionally. We have told him we'll read it with him. But we really, really need more books for tweens in our family library.

I'm so very grateful for the work you're doing to review books for this wonderful age group, when our children are still sweet and young, but also yearning for complexity, comedy, irony, and above all, the realities of good and evil. Our son wants to be strong and well-informed. I'm going to pick up a copy of this 9-11 book and see if it might be a good addition to the collection of books that are suitable for him, though not for his younger siblings.

Beth,  February 22, 2011 at 8:46 AM  

Actually... After I posted my earlier, passionate comment, I realized it was way too long and not well related to this particular review. This was just the first review I'd read, and I got a little rash in my excitement! Sorry. I've been reading lots of reviews, and I just love your site.

One more thing: I also realized, after posting, that you recommend this 9/11 book for older tweens, so not really for my 11-year-old anyway. But I will pick up the book and read it. Please feel free to delete my previous comment without any qualms of conscience, if it was a bit overbearing! Thanks again for this wonderful work you're doing!


Tween Lit Crit February 22, 2011 at 10:25 AM  

I did not post it since you were unsure. I quite enjoyed it, though. Being wordy and passionate myself, I've learned to listen more, and I rarely find people overbearing. On the contrary, when you shared your enthusiasm, I thought you made a number of good points, and I appreciate it.

It was also quite relevant, especially the point that 11 yr. olds are often at the age of reaching for more information and anxious to see and sift through more mature topics.

I've seen this be the reason that adults will hand them just about anything to read. And there is often contempt for parents whose boundaries are "too restrictive." I've encountered this frequently in the educational system.

My observation is twofold: first, I don't think that our teens are exactly thriving. Perhaps it's time to re-think the ways we have failed them. Second: it's a lot harder to corral a horse that has been released from the barn.

I'm delighted to know that I'm not the only parent out there willing to wrestle with the effort to set boundaries. Thanks for the feedback.

Tween Lit Crit February 22, 2011 at 10:26 AM  

now I'm laughing at myself: sounds like I called you wordy! not what I meant...

Beth,  March 17, 2011 at 1:38 PM  

Thanks for your very kind responses! Ah, no no...wordy really is the word for me! But I like words, so that's not such a bad thing. I'm a college writing prof., working on my PhD in lit. I just left a request that you review /The Mysterious Benedict Society/ by Trenton Lee Stewart sometime. Our boys, my husband, and I really like this book. I would be glad to have your perspective on it, and--if you like it--would also be glad to see it get picked up by families who are looking for exciting stories with solid values.

Beth,  March 17, 2011 at 1:54 PM  

Hi, again! Can you recommend a movie review site that reviews movies for children and families? (Besides the USCCB, of course!) We would just like to read more reviews that rate movies through a lens of Catholic values. If I can't find a wonderful review site, I'm going to start one myself, but I'm sure there must be many out there! Thanks again for your wonderful work!

Tween Lit Crit March 17, 2011 at 6:24 PM  

Roger that on Benedict Society. I responded back at Ranger's Apprentice.
Have you seen:

It comes the closest I know of, but they don't focus on children/family per se. Please let me know if you start one. I'll give you some ideas of ones to review. I think a website like that for families with children is a grand idea.

I rented movies from the USCCB and had a bad experience. I think that is what happened to the people who started the above site.

Good luck on the PhD.! That explains your writing skills. My college professor told me not to use exclamation marks! I loved my college writing professors. And I always listened. :) Happy St. Paddy Day.

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