Date reviewed: 10/18/04 Grades 4-7 IL 8-12
Personal Reaction: I think this is a great story, though I’m wondering if kids will “get” the whole mafia tone of Ernie. Somehow the vocabulary or sarcastic tone seems to fit an adult rather than these elementary aged characters. I never really thought that Swimming Pool was the “best” employee, rather I thought it was Dusty! Enjoyable and recommended to 6th, maybe some 7th graders. Be prepared to deal with religious questions about whether pets go to heaven or those kids who may be offended in either the burial of an animal (as family) or even the sacrilege of the proceedings.
Points for discussion with children or topics for study: Pets, death, burial rites, solemnity; artistic effort; fair treatment of employees, business
Connections to other books? Cover illustration by Tony DiTerlizzi may inspire kids to read his The Spiderwick Chronicles, very short mystery series; maybe The Blessing of the Animals by Rosen (which concentrates more on religion rather than the pets’ part in it); reminds me more of I’m Going to Be Famous! By Birdseye
Realia: headstone for pet or stuffed animal in coffin (is that going too far?); dog biscuits; handkerchief; cell phone; monopoly money; shovel; photograph of pet cemetery?; decorated shoebox coffin; small stuffed dog with windup clock in sleeping box
Food items connected to story: take-out (pizza, fried chicken) or frozen dinners; cheeseburgers; peanut butter