The Tenth Good Thing About Barney by Judith Viorst
When you raise a child, or teach young children, there is bound to come a time when a beloved pet dies. Given that the life cycle of animals is short, it is often the first death a child will experience. This story is first person narrative of a young boy trying to comprehend and come to terms with the death of his cat, Barney.
They’ve decided to have a funeral and, the night before, the boy’s mother tells him to think of ten good things about Barney.
At the funeral, attended by both parents and neighbour Annie, the boy recites his list of good things: smart, and cuddly, and so on. Those are all good things about Barney, said my mother, but I just count nine. I said I would try to think of another one later.
And later, as they work together in the garden, his dad tells him how things change in the ground, and that yes, Barney will change, too. And the boy comes to understand how Barney fits in with the circle of life, in this story that comes full circle itself, and delivers on its title.
One small detail I found particularly interesting was that Viorst named everyone except the boy. That way, when you read this story to/with children who have suffered the loss of a pet, it will be easy for them to put themselves into the boy’s place. Was this deliberate? Viorst has written many books for children, and she can be counted on to be truthful, empathetic and quite insightful.
The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
O P Plea: The Tenth Good Thing About Barney
The story is told from the point of view of a male narrator who is about 6 or 7 years old. That night, when his mom tucks him into bed, she suggests having a funeral for Barney. She tells the narrator to think of 10 good things about Barney so he can tell them at the funeral. The narrator is intrigued by the idea. He thinks and thinks, but he can only come up with nine good things. At the funeral, attended by his family and his friend, Annie, he lists the nine things and says he will try to come up a 10th thing later on.
My cat Barney died this Friday. I was very sad. My mother said we could have a funeral for him, and I should think of ten good things about Barney so I could tell them But the small boy who loved Barney can only think of nine. Later, while talking with his father, he discovers the tenth -- and begins to understand. Judith Viorst is the author of the beloved Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day , which has sold some four million copies; the Lulu books, including Lulu and the Brontosaurus ; the New York Times bestseller Necessary Losses ; four musicals; and poetry for children and young adults.
Can't see the preview? Click here! How to print the digital edition of Books for Keeps: click on this PDF file link - click on the printer icon in the top right of the screen to print. Cover Story Our cover this month features Asterix. Children have an optimistic view of life so death strikes at the heart of their belief that everything exists forever. A three-year-old believes that. This concept is analogous to that employed in traditional literature - myth, legend, folk and fairy-tale - in which death is not an end but a necessary phase in the process of rebirth and transformation.