STAY (& the Three Tissue Ending)

Sometimes we love a book SO much around here that two of us wind up posting about it (and sometimes one of those two—who normally is very careful to check the archives to avoid such a situation—doesn’t realize she’s writing about a book that’s already been covered till right before press time—ack!). So in case you missed the earlier one, or need a reminder, here goes . . .

I’ve now read Stay: A Girl, a Dog, a Bucket List  three times. And each time I’ve turned the page to read the last two sentences, I’ve choked up. Each time. Even though by the second and third reading, I knew exactly what was coming.

I’ve been trying to figure out what makes this particular ending so powerful. Here’s my theory: If you’ve ever loved a dog, and that dog loved you back (which, by definition, most dogs do), the ending rings absolutely true.

Of course, a powerful ending really starts with the beginning. The book—written and illustrated (respectively) by super-talented sisters Kate Klise and M. Sarah Klise—begins with baby Astrid arriving home from the hospital. Eli is there to greet her.

The two soon become best buddies.

After all, they have so much in common (this spread made me laugh):

But as Astrid gets older, she realizes that she’s getting bigger than Eli. And Eli is getting older much faster than she is.

Astrid notices Eli slowing down and decides to make a list of things they should do together before Eli gets too old. Some are normal child-and-dog things like reading dog books together and sleeping under the stars. Others are more offbeat, like going down a slide and riding a bicycle.

At first I wondered why the author included some activities—like the bike ride—that a dog the size of Eli would be unlikely to do.  But the wackier scenarios add a note of humor to lighten things up. And, more importantly, they show just how far Astrid is willing to go to make Eli happy—setting us up for that poignant ending.

The truth is Astrid doesn’t need to do any of these things—not the bike ride, the bubble bath, or the movie date. Not even the spaghetti and meatball dinner at a fancy restaurant.  Sure, Eli enjoys them all. But it’s not because of the thrill or novelty of the activity.

And here’s where I choke up. After crossing so many things off the bucket list, Astrid asks Eli what else he’d like to do.

But Eli doesn’t have anything to add. The last page says it all:

And, yep, my eyes just welled up again.

I suspect this book especially resonates with me because our son Jackson, an only child like Astrid, has grown up with four dogs in his life. Nicky and Remy greeted him when he came home from the hospital, Nicky immediately declaring herself his protector and devoted friend for life.

Years later, after going through the pain of saying goodbye to our beloved girls, we welcomed first Sammy (right), then Stella, to the family.

Ten years later, Jackson’s wrapping up his second year of college and our two girls are showing their age. And eagerly awaiting Jackson’s next visit.

But I don’t think you need to have dogs to appreciate this story and be moved by its ending. Have you read it yet? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

—Linda

P.S. The winner of Stacy McAnulty’s EARTH: MY FIRST 4.54 BILLION YEARS from last month’s post is Cassie Bentley. Congratulations!

 

Linda Ashman

Linda Ashman is the author of more than 35 picture books, as well as The Nuts and Bolts Guide to Writing Picture Books, a “how to” e-book for picture book writers.

49 Comments:

  1. Colleen Kelley

    Thanks for taking the time to “figure out” and help us to see how this book is able to touch our hearts. You capture the subtleties of the progression of Klise’s writing about this sweet relationship. Your selections gave me a better understanding of the craft of this book. It doesn’t feel like you are duplicating at all, since your approach is so different from Pat’s. The two are complimentary.

  2. I went out and read it the first time and loved it today I plan to read it again. thank you.

  3. Oh my, that does look like a tear jerker. Despite the sniffles, I love the message. Thanks for sharing this one!

  4. I can’t believe I haven’t read this yet. We’re dog people here and I had to run for a tissue just reading this. The last page was what did me in. I’m going to find it today. Thanks.

  5. I read this the first time and my heart melted. I’m going to read it again!!

  6. Tears flowing here too!

  7. One of my all time favorite PBs. Perfect in every way!

  8. Angie Quantrell

    Wow! What a powerful book! Thanks for sharing with us! ‘Sniff, sniff’

  9. What a sweet story. sniff sniff. Just being with the one we love is enough – Love is all about giving your time.

  10. Dog lover? Yes. Choked up? Yes. Great post on a relationship between a girl and a dog.

  11. Jennifer Lane Wilson

    That ending …. our family has a big fluffy dog too

  12. Kevan Atteberry
    Kevan Atteberry

    This looks absolutely lovely. Will get my tissue and read.

  13. It’s such a lovely book. The little bits of humor help. But the ending is bittersweet every time I read it.

  14. Lisa Riddiough

    I love it! My eyes welled up just reading your summary. I’m putting this one on my list. Thank you, Linda.

  15. Linda!! This is my favorite book of last year!! I cannot read it without weeping although I’ve now read it many, many times. I love it so very much!! I have an only too, and our dog, Becca is her dog sister was her playmate growing up. Their relationship is the inspiration for my Penny & Jelly books as well as Hello Goodbye Dog & my forthcoming, Operation Rescue Dog. Becca was 6 mths old when we got her as a rescue, and my daughter was 4 (they are now 12, and 16 🙂 ) Trying to take the message of this book to heart on a daily basis, and savor the moments…

    • Somehow I knew this would be a favorite of yours, Maria! 🙂 How wonderful that Becca and your daughter’s relationship has been immortalized in your books (almost all of mine have been inspired in some way by our son, the dogs, or both!). And, yes, it’s so important to savor the moments–because the time goes by so dang fast. I need to remember that too.

  16. Debra K Shumaker

    I just can’t tell you how much I love this book. . . .and I’m not a dog owner.

  17. Danielle Hammelef

    I’m crying now and I only read the pages here. I miss my dog so much. It’s been 5 months since my constant friend, my walking buddy, my reading buddy, my sleep-at-the-end-of-my-bed buddy died and I still mourn him. I need this book.

  18. I’d say post about this book as many times as possible. It’s one of the few that I made sure I purchased just for myself. Love it!

  19. I haven’t read this one yet and you’ve made me really really really want to. Thanks for the lovely feature. 🙂

  20. I think you’ll love this one, Jama. And it features food!! 🙂

  21. Such a tender, poignant book.

  22. I love dogs and I already love this book, even though I haven’t read it yet. I plan to look for it. Thanks so much for telling me about it. ♡

  23. This could be the story of our family and our relationship with our dogs. Sigh. It is so hard to say good bye. Memories are so bittersweet. I’m ordering “Stay” right now.

  24. This book is so lovely and it hits home in too many ways. I definitely cried a little too much with this heart warming story. 🙂

  25. These messages just warm my heart. Thanks so much for all the kind words, friends!

  26. Those heartfelt endings…. Whew. Pass the Kleenex.

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