“It Would Be A Lot Easier To Give You This Newbery Medal If Your Beautiful Coming-of-Age Story Had a Dead Dog In It,” by William Hughes

Oct 10th, 2012 | By | Category: Fake Nonfiction, Prose

Dear Mr. Angelis,

First of all, we on the Newbery Committee would like to congratulate you on the success of your recent novel, “Zeus in Sneakers.” Many of us were deeply moved by your poignant portrait of life as a Greek-American teen in the late ’60s, with one member going so far as to call it “the most real and authentic portrayal of the post-immigrant experience in America that I’ve ever read.” Obviously, we believe your book to be of real merit to America’s children, and would love to give you our endorsement by presenting you with this year’s Newbery Medal. There’s just one problem with your book, Mr. Angelis, one oversight we’re hoping we can convince you to correct: it features absolutely no dead dogs that teach kids that they, too, will one day die.

As you probably know, the Newbery Medal can only be granted to young adult fiction that meets a stringent series of criteria. The work must be published in English, and its author be a resident of the United States. It must contribute to literature and relate to a child audience. And it must, if at all possible, feature the death of a beloved pet in order to emphasize the pain and terror of maturing into adulthood, and the grim embrace of death that awaits us all.

While your novel is excellent, we on the Committee must admit we were extremely anxious while reading it, constantly wondering “When will the dog show up and then be mercilessly murdered by narrative demand?” At one point (while protagonist George Condos is being chased by bullies after the baseball riot) a stray cat is mentioned in passing, but nothing is ever made of this or its potential to tear the scales of youth from children’s eyes with a timely visit from the Reaper.

Mr. Angelis, our prestigious Medal has been given out for almost a century, and is widely regarded in the publishing industry as a symbol of excellence in children’s literature. (Not to mention, but featuring our endorsement on a book’s cover has also been shown to generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in extra sales). While we would never demand an author alter his work to meet our tastes, we are aware that the paperback printing of Zeus in Sneakers is rapidly approaching, and thought we would suggest these possible plot additions that might make it easier to welcome your debut into our esteemed fraternity.

*Oscar, a plucky three-legged Pomeranian who dies defending George from a feral street rat.

*Cortez the turtle, boiled for soup by George’s well-meaning but Alzheimer’s-afflicted grandmother

*Memento Maury, a rare and exotic parrot that constantly squawks “Death Will Consume Us All” until being destroyed by the ravages of avian leukemia.

*An entire cage of hamsters, unnamed, thrown into a wood chipper at the start of Chapter Six.

These are only a few suggestions. We’re sure an author of your caliber can think of hundreds of ways to symbolically murder an animal in the service of cheap, powerful emotion. And once you do, Mr. Angelis, you’ll be able to wear our Medal with pride.

We await your response.

The Newbery Medal Committee
(a division of the Child Therapist Union of America)


William Hughes is a writer, comedian, and dilettante whose work has previously been published by McSweeney’s. During a previous life as a scientist, he killed an absolutely astounding number of mice, and has been working off the negative karma ever since.

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