I Like That Party Hat

Are the angels partying in heaven just like the dogs in my favorite childhood book?


I tend to judge books by their endings. If a book ends well, I'm usually ready to forgive any shortcomings it might have suffered on the way there. But if a book that's been good throughout lets me down at the end, that's what I'm most likely to remember when I think back on it later. To my mind, if a book doesn't have a good ending, then it's just…not that good a book.

My appreciation for endings goes back--way back--to my discovery, as a child, of a Dr. Seuss Beginner Book by P. D. Eastman called Go, Dog. Go!

As many a reader around my age will remember, Go, Dog. Go! is a book about activity. Throughout its pages, a horde of multi-colored dogs of every size and shape engage in a series of games and situations designed to show young readers what a big, exciting place the world is.

But--just as in the real world--tensions exist from the beginning. A few pages into Go, Dog. Go! a pink poodle and a yellow dog that looks something like an overgrown beagle meet up.

"Hello!" says the poodle, who is sporting a blue hat with a daisy stuck in the brim. "Do you like my hat?"

"I do not," the beagle responds.

In the following pages, this encounter repeats twice more. Each time the poodle and beagle meet, it's the same story. The poodle asks the beagle if he likes her hat, and the beagle replies in the negative.

Meanwhile, the other dogs pursue their mad activities. The action is exciting, but essentially shapeless and chaotic: Dogs driving cars on one page, dogs riding on a roller coaster on another page, dogs playing tennis on top of a hot air balloon on another. Much like life itself, it's just one thing after the next, with--seemingly--no rhyme or reason at all. The only real narrative thread is the one created by those occasional, unsatisfying meetings between the pink poodle and the yellow beagle.

But then, suddenly--page 52, to be exact--everything changes. Once more we again find the dogs in their cars and on the road, but this time they seem like they're going someplace very definite.

"Where are those dogs going?" the text asks. The next page gives the answer: "They are all going to that big tree over there."

This is, the reader guesses, no ordinary tree. The dogs file up a ladder leaning against its trunk to a party that is taking place in its upper branches: a party that renders all the fun that has happened up to that point pale by comparison. The dogs jump rope, bounce on trampolines, fire out of cannons…the same kind of thing they've been doing in the previous pages, but now all at once and all together in the same place, so that what before seemed simply chaotic now takes on a kind of wild but deeply appealing coherence. At the center of the action, a giant pink cake is cut up and presents are opened. Is it Christmas? Somebody's birthday? Both?

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