My friend Lisa, mother of Leo the boy and Doug the dog, casually mentioned they had been reading James Thurber at bedtime.
Excellent, I thought to myself, rubbing my hands together like a Looney Toon villain.
I’ve loved James Thurber since a friend introduced me to him in my 20s. I decided to give Thurber ‘s Dogs, A Collection of the Masters Dogs Written & Drawn Real & Imaginary Living & Long Ago a try with Max.
He loved it.
I was a little surprised. Some of the stories were written in 1926 and I guessed that the language, let alone the culture, is a little dated for a six-year-old.
But Thurber’s charm and humor grabbed Max, same as it did his mama, and he asked for the stories several nights in a row. Thurber’s tales include those about dogs from his childhood in Columbus, Ohio, adulthood, and his cartoons of the dogs, many that appeared in The New Yorker.
I asked Max what he liked about the stories.
“I’m just so interested,” my little chatter box said. “I like learning about the dog’s lives and I like hearing about the bad dogs!”
One night, Thurber inspired him to reference the “dog page” from one of my childhood favorites, Our Animal Friends at Maple Hill Farm by Alice and Martin Provensen. It took Max’s prompting for me to realize there was a theme. Maple Hill Farm also addresses dogs present and past.
With a child’s honest curiosity about the morbid, Max told me, “I like hearing about their lives. I even liked hearing about the dog that gets run over!”
I can’t wait until he’s old enough to read My Life and Hard Times with me.
Find out more about James Thurber by visiting Thurber House. The home he lived in with his parents is now a Columbus, Ohio museum. Road trip, anyone?