The 100 Books Project: Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes

“Humor-man’s greatest gift! That’s what separates humans from other animals. That’s why it’s called humor. Humans-humor. You never hear dogs telling jokes, do you?”

“Dogs Don’t Tell Jokes” by Louis Sachar

This was among the many books read to me in grade school that I almost instantly bought at the next Scholastic Book Fair and read until it was worn to the point where picking it up and rereading it this week made me nervous that it would fall apart. It didn’t, and it was a really nice refreshing “buffer” book for the quest to reach 100. I still love this book, and being probably a good twelve or fifteen years older than the last time I read it didn’t diminish my enjoyment of it, though it did made me feel a little disappointed with the ending, which, while appealing easily to a younger reader, left an older one a little wanting. Still, it’s hard to really not love watching a character go from seriously doubting everything about himself to applying himself and triumphing and learning a lesson all the while.

I don’t really have much to say about it; I know the book well from school and reading it often in elementary, but it’s not that deep of a book. It’s Louis Sachar, so it’s fun and whacky with an oddball humour that really appeals to kids (or kids at heart), but it’s also pretty smart, too. Teachers read it in school, so he knows adults have to suffer through it and he makes it fun for them, too. I love his references to Sideways Stories from Wayside School, too, which are subtle but cute.

The thing that got me the most in rereading this old classic of my preteen repertoire, though, was how I managed to read even this with the proverbial “slash goggles” on. It’s a book for preteens and middle schoolers written in the early nineties, so I highly doubt there was an intention to ever have any character in this book “slashed” with each other, besides the cute flirtations of main character Gary W. Boone and blonde, braced Leslie Ann Cummins during the talent show, but, so help me, I could not help but feel that Gary sort of had a crush of popular boy Joe Reed. I know, I know, if you’ve read it, Gary stops telling jokes to lead up to the talent show and jokes were everything he was, so he’s feeling a little lost without that to stand on. Joe is nice to him, and even includes him in a trick football play that gets the other boys more on his side, so it makes sense that someone in Gary’s position would cling to that friendship, but, damn you, intrawebz fandom, tell me that could also not be the start of an epic sort of romance and budding love and discovery?

So help me if I write fanfiction, only to wind up changing the names and details so it seems like genuine fiction.

Either way, it’s a very cute book, one that shaped a lot of my own developing years, and, apparently, is shaping my current years, too. If you never did read it, either on your own or through a school assignment like I did, I recommend giving it a look. It’s a light, breezy read, and kids love it, too. I know I did.

Books read: 6 out of 100.


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