By Riley Manning/Daily Journal
TUPELO – The Haven Acres Boys & Girls Club was the first to preview the novel chosen for the third annual Tupelo Reads program.
Over the past month, the 20 or so students age 12 and under, have explored the text of Willie Morris’ “My Dog Skip.”
Lisa Reed, chairwoman of the Tupelo Reads program, said last year’s book, “Gilead,” involved high school-aged Boys & Girls Club members, and “My Dog Skip” was the perfect novel to introduce to younger readers.
“We wanted a Mississippi writer, and the story is so relatable,” she said. “It’s also a very good book to read aloud.”
The coming-of-age story tells the adventures of a young boy and his dog in 1940s Yazoo City.
As Reed worked through the novel with the students, they explored literary elements, such as point of view and setting, as well as differences between the genres of memoir, biography and autobiography. Students also wrote an essay comparing and contrasting their own experiences with pets to that of the author and his faithful terrier.
“Of course we’re trying to keep them reading throughout the summer, but they were really open to the story itself, to this country story about a boy and his dog,” said Mattie Mabry, director of the Haven Acres club.
She said students liked the topic.
“I liked it when they drove into town with Skip in the driver’s seat,” said student Jeremiah James. “And they would get down in the seat so it looked like the dog was driving.”
“I liked it when he taught the dog to play football and baseball,” said student Wuyea Camara.
Though many of Skip and Morris’ adventures are whimsical, the book deals with themes of war and race through the eyes of the 9-year-old protagonist.
“I felt like the book was telling me to treat people the way I would want to be treated,” said student AJ Toliver.
Tupelo Reads activities involving “My Dog Skip” will pick up in September with a showing of the 1999 film version in Fairpark. Later in the month, former governor William Winter, who was a close friend to Morris, will be the featured speaker at Tupelo Reads’ Luncheon with Books event.