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"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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Monday, August 29, 2011

Tango by Eileen Beha

I like the names the mother dog came up with for her puppies:

Esperanza (hope rising), Theresa (for giving generously to those in need), and Dulcinea, (a beauty referred to in Quixote). The fourth puppy wasn’t named him before the owner yanked him from the kennel to sell. He ends up with a silly name(Tango) but a loving owner from Manhattan who pours lavish amounts of money and attention upon the little Yorkshire Terrier.

From kennel, to posh Manhattan, Tango next is swept off a sailboat and washes up on Prince Edward Island. Several story lines intersect here. A foster child/runaway named McKenna is making candles with the help of a retired teacher named Augusta. Augusta has taken in Tango. McKenna is trailed wherever she goes by a fox, Beau, who dragged her to human help when she was an abandoned infant. A gang of cruel cats live in an abandoned lighthouse in the area and impact the lives of Tango, Beau, and their human friends.

These unloved animals symbolize some of the worse traits of human nature: deciding to force weaker animals to fight for their entertainment. They are a contrast to themes of perseverance, community, and love that characterize the interactions of the main characters.

As for Tango, he has to contend with finding his owner, fending off mean cats, and figuring out his feelings toward his new caretaker.

A couple of cautions are in order. Mckenna calls the candles she makes “enchanted.” Augusta, her adult friend, was concerned and Mckenna explains that she doesn’t know if they actually make dreams come true. She does know that clarifying your dreams can help make them come true. She provided an example that was positive: she prayed for a dollhouse and retreated to the attic when she didn’t get it; there she found a Bible that she did use. The line is a little blurry when Tango sees a vision in the candle (it helps him come to terms with which owner to stay with). Anthropomorphizing of the animals in this story worked in part to illustrate good vs. evil in the human heart. I found the line a bit blurry between human and animal souls when the fox was visualizing his mate and reuniting with her when the “Great Spirit in the Sky” took him. Is this symbolizing humanity or reflecting no distinction between humans/animal souls? These were worthy topics of discussion for us, and it wasn't hard to clarify things, but it's worth reading yourself to see how the topics are handled.

I liked the general themes and overall story line. I didn’t quite get pulled into it, though. One of my tweens liked it, another didn’t finish it. It is more likely to appeal to the younger animal lover.


See: Catechism of the Catholic Church: 2138 357


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