The Hole Story of Kirby the Sneak and Arlo the True is a saga-style book of poetry about a prank between two dogs, and facing the consequences of those actions with philosophical reflections on the universe and what it could mean to steal a “hole”. But is it for children – or adults?
The story begins with Kirby the Sneak postulating on just what he could do to really upset Arlo the True – what would really drive him crazy? Every idea he came upon seemed to be too easily thwarted, until…
“And that’s when it came to him, out of the blue,
A novel new way to trick Arlo the True;
He laughed in his dewclaw just thinking it through:
He’d steal the downhole. Then he’s bury it, too.”
That’s right – he’s going to steal Arlo’s beloved backyard hole, the one he uses on a regular basis. While Kismet the Cat overlooks the risky operation, Kirby successfully pulls off the heist while Arlo is napping. But then, things go awry. Kirby can’t really put in paw on what’s wrong, but things in the world suddenly seem off-kilter.
“But what could he do with stuff all out of whack?
When a voice like a catdog said, ‘Get the hole back.'”
Arlo’s checklist of where things ought to be seems to coincide with all that is right in the world, and when Kirby steals one item away – the entire world around them seems to fall apart. And that’s when this book delves into philosophical and even scientific matters of life and nature and possibly even physics. It’s sophisticated and fun and requires a lot more concentration that I had anticipated.
As I read this to my nine year old, I had to repeat many of the stanzas and attempt to either explain what was happening, or encourage him to use his critical thinking skills to guess at what was going on. At just over 100 pages of verse, this wasn’t a read-in-one-sitting book for parent and child. It took us a week and it was a bit thick with metaphors and analogies that needed to be explained to a child, even one as old as nine. I had to read several verses a number of times myself.
But for an adult, this book is a treat! It’s smart and sophisticated, with playful prose that aren’t turned over in an instant – they require thought and pondering. It’s really quite genius! The Hole Story of Kirby the Sneak and Arlo the True is a story that would appeal to the inner child (with caricatures to boot) and carries tidbits of fantasy and philosophy. This is Dr. Seuss with a double doctorate from Oxford and one from Harvard, and it’s also a book you will have to read for yourself because I’m inclined to think every reader will walk away with a different interpretation.
I recommend this read for parent and child up to the age of eleven, and solo readers of age twelve and up.