I've really been enjoying using Jack Gantos's writing in my class this week as a model of memoir, albeit in the fictionalized sense. His website has some great advice for kids and teachers on how to turn their personal experiences into good stories, and he has published some terrific examples, especially in his Jack Henry series. (Here he avoids pulling a James Frey by changing the last names.) I confess to laughing out loud several time while reading Heads and Tails. Gantos is a kind of a kid-friendly (but still edgy) version of David Sedaris or Augusten Burroughs. The kids loved the excerpts, too, and all three copies of the book were checked out of the library the same day we read his work.
Even so (and despite the fact that I knew it was coming), the part where the alligator drags Jack's dog into the canal broke my heart. To me, it was nothing short of tragic. I don't know why it is that some people find the plight of animals equally or more compelling than that of our fellow human beings. Surely it is bound up in our complex connection to nature, a relationship that has only been muddied by our advancements in technology and civilization. Or maybe it's just that pet death is really, really, sad.