For the month of December Jen (Teach Mentor Text) and I are reading Hound Dog True by Linda Urban. After reading about a third of the book Jen and I chatted in a google doc about the book. After about 45 minutes and 2500 words we finally stopped. Although, I think we probably could have gone on for a while longer. The chat really opened my eyes to how powerful talking books with someone you trust can be.
I’m already about a third of the way through Hound Dog True but I realized I’ve been just reading and enjoying the book and that I needed to stop and go back and really think about the story and Linda Urban’s writing and to write more about my thinking because that’s what our book club is all about.I went back to page one and had to stop and tweet Colby to ask him if the phrase “hound dog true” is a common expression that I should know. My husband uses lots of idioms and phrases that sometimes I have never heard of so I had to stop and check if this is another one that I somehow missed.I know I’ve never heard of the phrase “hound dog true.”Before I started reading the book I had two thoughts about what the expression means. My first inkling was that it has to do with being loyal, like a hound dog, or any dog for that matter, is loyal. So if you are as true as a hound dog then you are as loyal as a hound dog. The other thought that crossed my mind was that it had some kind of connection to the Elvis Presley song You Ain’t Nothing But a Hound Dog. The only problem with that is that in the song he’s telling his friend that he’s a hound dog because he’s not a good friend to him. Basically both of my ideas contradict each other.And then…I started reading and right off the bat, Mattie’s uncle Potluck says, “’It’s hound dog true,’” when he talks about how honest he is. It seems like this is what Urban is using the phrase to mean. It made me think of Mater from Cars when he says, “If I’m lying, I’m crying.” I’m wondering if the meaning will change or if we’ll just see it again and again throughout the book.
I’ve never had to be the new girl at a school before ever like Mattie so it’s hard for me to relate directly to her…BUT I have so been a shy girl and I’ve also done things that I regretted after doing them so I could relate in that way to how Mattie feels in chapter one when she’s remembering what it was like to be the new girl. I immediately thought of the short story “Eleven” by Sandra Cisneros. I read it a few years ago but it has stuck with me so vividly. In that story the little girl is having a not so good day and it just so happens to be her birthday. She talks about turning eleven but still having herself as 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 that she carries around with her. Haven’t you just had a day when that five-year-old inside of you comes out and you just want to cry in your mom or dad’s arms? That just spoke to me.
Here’s my weepy, spelling-bees-are-no-fun story from when I was in 5th grade:
In fifth grade, because I was one of the top spellers in my class, I was one of a small group of kids who would be participating in the spelling bee for the entire fifth grade. Small groups from all the different fifth grade classes were studying together and getting ready for the spelling bee. I remember sitting in the hall with friends and practicing and even practicing at home with my mom on the couch. Like I said, I was a good speller so I was pretty confident that I would do well. I wasn’t necessarily envisioning winning the whole thing but I knew I would do a good job.
On the day of the spelling bee I had to dress nicely. The media center was set up with chairs for the participants and then floor seating for students and more chairs for parents. Just like the spelling bees you see on TV, there was a microphone in the middle and a judge’s table off to the side.
The media center was full of students, teachers, and parents. I saw my mom come in just before everything go started. She had asked to leave work to come and I was so happy she was going to be there to see me spell.
I have no idea how many kids spelled their words before me. I don’t even remember walking up to the microphone. It seemed like all of a sudden I found myself hearing the word bicycle announced and then my voice said, “Bicycle, b-y-c-i-c-l-e, bicycle.”
I didn’t even realize I had spelled it wrong until I heard that tinny bell and was instructed to find a seat on the opposite side from where I had been originally sitting. I was crushed. I didn’t even know what was happening. It was over like a finger-snap and I had spelled my word wrong.
The worst part was looking out into the crowd and seeing my mom sneak out of the media center. I realize she needed to get back to work. I understand there was no reason for her to stay around since I was out of the spelling bee. I know she still loves me no matter what. But that doesn’t mean, to this day, I don’t still feel my heart collapse and fold itself a million times over into the smallest speck because I couldn’t even spell one one word right in that spelling bee.
I’m 31 and still can cry every time I confess my spelling bee failure story or happen to catch the National Spelling Bee on TV (this is where I ask you to be nice and tread carefully with any comments please!). That 5th grade spelling be is what I was thinking about when I read the last line of chapter one. Isn’t this just a great example of making a text-to-self connection? A lot of times my students try and relate directly to the character and they’ll tell me they’ve never been the new student at school. Sometimes it’s hard for them to stop and think a little more deeply to be able to come up with a connection. This would be a perfect chapter to read and then talk to them about how even though I’ve never been a new student before I can infer how Mattie is feeling and then relate to that feeling because I’ve felt like that before.
I have to respond to your thought in reverse order.
Seeing what you had to say about the spelling bee totally takes me back to fifth grade myself. I was not a super speller, but somehow I was able to sneak out of my classroom round, and then again out of the school round.
And then what!!?!?!?
Then I got to the finals, which was held at the high school auditorium. I actually missed the practice word: canoe. Once the spelling bee started, I was getting these crazy easy words, and other people were dropping like flies. Then I got the easiest word ever. All I had to do was spell this word correctly and I would move on to the city level. I couldn’t believe I had fooled all these people. I stood up and spelled, “G-R-E-A-T-F-U-L.” Then I sat back down. DING! -I was so surprised. TOTALLY STUPID WORD!!!! I didn’t even know that happened until the next day. I cried like a baby the rest of the spelling bee.
To this day, I refuse to use the word grateful, unless I am telling this story.
Ah!!! I wanted to try and strike out grateful for you but it won’t let me. I hate spelling bees. I’m glad you have another sad spelling bee story!
I will never have spelling bees with my students. EVER.
You do realize how nerdy this is?
Yes, now that movie made spelling bees a little cooler.I like how it at least gave some background as to how the spelling bee can be about studying word parts and origins so it’s not just spelling, it’s thinking, too.Thanks for reading. Please check back tomorrow for part 2. It is where things get deep.