“Thumbelina” Ever read the original Hans Christian Andersen version? Well my Uncle Sam read it to me when I was about five, and I couldn’t stop crying. In the years ahead, I’d ask him to read it again, and he would say, “Only if you promise not to cry.” I’d promise, but then, once again, I’d cry. On rereading the story recently I couldn’t truly figure out what was so sad to me, but I think it was the part where Thumbelina nursed the fallen swallow back to health. In the spring, he asked Thumbelina to fly away with him, but, out of loyalty to old Field Mouse, she would not. Ah, I think this is the part right here: “Farewell, farewell, you good, pretty girl!” said the Swallow and he flew out into the sunshine. Thumbelina looked after him, and the tears came into her eyes, for she was heartily and sincerely fond of the poor swallow.. “Tweet-weet, tweet-weet!” sang the bird, and flew into the green forest. Thumbelina felt very sad.
“The Birds’ Christmas Carol” by Kate Douglas Wiggin This has been by far the greatest tear-jerker of all time for me, despite the many times I read it: to my own children, to classes at school, to kids in the neighborhood, and finally to my grandchildren. Put succinctly, this book written in 1886, is the story of a little girl born to the rich Bird family one Christmas day and named Carol, hence the title of the book. Always bedridden, she is beautiful, kind and sweet, the darling of the family. There is one riotously funny section where she plans a Christmas for the poor family living nearby. But then, of course, on Christmas Day, when she was probably 11… I’ll say no more. I quote the following from my son’s book reviews. “ I fondly recall my Mother sobbing through this chapter as one of the neighborhood kids who basically lived at our house, asked plaintively, “Are you going to stop crying long enough to finish this? I’ll never find out what happened.”
“Stone Fox” by John Reynolds Gardiner This book, tells the story of a young boy and his dog who compete against a fabled Indian and his Samoyeds to win prize money so the boy can save his grandfather’s potato farm. In preparation for using it with a third grade class, I sat quietly reading the book for the first time as the kids worked on some assignment. The story took an unexpected turn, and without warning I burst right out crying. My poor class!
“My Dog Skip” an autobiographical story by Willie Morris This is another boy and dog story, one I had never read until I was subbing at the high school. I was sitting alone in a room during a planning period, reading, when a student walked in unexpectedly and we were both embarrassed that tears were running down my face. I was surprised that he said, “I know how you feel. I felt the same way.”
“Evergreen” by Belva Plain 1978 I was reading in bed when I started sobbing, and my daughter ran in, thinking I was being choked. I have no recollection of this story, but I see it is only $1.99 on Kindle, so I may download it and see what it was all about.
I have learned to be careful about listening to recorded books while driving although even screening doesn’t always help. At least twice I have been forced to pull over to the side of the road because the book made me cry so hard: “Every Last One” by Anna Quindlen and “Wait Until Next Year” by Doris Kearns Goodwin
This is in no way a complete list, but these are the ones I remember most vividly. Are you surprised I didn’t include “Gone with the Wind?” I think the only answer is that by the end of that book I was so disappointed with Scarlett for rejecting Rhett Butler I was more mad than sad.
© Dorothy C. Judd
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