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The Beloved Dearly
By Doug Cooney

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The Beloved Dearly

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The Beloved Dearly
By Doug Cooney
Read by Doug Cooney and a Full Cast
Full Cast Audio, (2002)
An Unabridged Audio Recording on Two Cassettes
ISBN: 0-9717540-8-X

Reviewed by Rochelle Caviness - February 4, 2003

Ernie Castellano is not your ordinary kid. Ernie is the quintessential salesman who would "sell the lawn chair out from under his grandmother." He also has the innate ability to sell anything from cheese burgers to booger insurance. Ernie is clever, energetic, intelligent, and good-hearted, however his moneymaking schemes have a way of backfiring! In The Beloved Dearly, by Doug Cooney, Ernie has hit upon a new and innovative money making venture - pet funerals.

After finding a vacant lot for his cemetery, Ernie discovers that he needs a few employees if he's to have any chance go making his venture a success. To this end, he gathers about him a colorful group of associates. These associates include the artistic Dusty, whose job it is to create suitable sarcophagi for the internments, Tony who happens to be handy with a shovel, and Swimming Pool. Despite being a card-carrying tomboy, Ernie hires Swimming Pool to act as 'crier' at the funerals in order to give the proceedings the necessary mournful air.

From rabbits to iguana, Ernie will bury anything - just as long as his clients can pay the requisite fee. Like most of his schemes, this one doesn't always go according to plan and Ernie finds that he has to haul himself out of the very large hole that he has managed to dig for himself.

Ernie is an intriguing character. He is about 12 years-old and lives with his father and their elderly dog, Mr. Doggie. When Ernie's pet dies, he learns a number of important lessons, the least of which is that there is more to life than money. Ernie's mother passed away shortly before the story opens, and Ernie and his father are learning to 'go it alone' without her.

My second favorite character in the story is Swimming Pool. She comes from a volatile family, and her best friend is her eldest brother who is so unhappy at home that he considers leaving - despite not having anywhere to go. Swimming Pool doesn't like to wear dresses, and her best-loved article of clothing is a ragged pair of red high-topped sneakers. There are many demons in Swimming Pool's past. Although Ernie is not always the best of bosses, her association with him helps her to purge herself of many of them.

The Beloved Dearly is an innovative, and funny story that will delight children of all ages (i.e., the grownups will giggle too!) This Full Cast Audio production of the story is preformed by a full cast of actors that literally, bring the story to life. The Beloved Dearly features Doug Cooney as the narrator, and stars Spencer Murphy as Ernie, Carmen Viviano-Crafts as Swimming Pool, Ryan Sparkes as Dusty, Karam Anthony as Tony, and Daniel Bostick as Mr. Bridwell, their school principal. Their performances, along with those of the other cast members is dynamic and fluid. Best of all, the actors sound as if they had a lot of fun recording this story.

I highly recommend this story! This is a humorous and creative story that is ideal for 'family' listening. The unobtrusive lessons taught in this story will also help children deal with the death of a pet or loved one. A standard print edition of The Beloved Dearly is also available, and I'm sure that kids would love reading this story as much as they will listening to it.

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