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The Beloved Dearly

Illustrated by Tony DiTerlizzi


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About The Book

Ernie is a twelve-year-old tycoon, always on the lookout for a fast buck. This time he stumbles onto a money-making bonanza: pet funerals. He hires Dusty to decorate the burial boxes and Tony to dig the holes, but his prize find is Swimming Pool, a tomboy who can cry on cue.
Business goes through the roof -- until Ernie loses Swimming Pool over a raise and the whole venture unravels. Here is a rollicking, fun-spirited novel about friendship, loss, business -- and how we learn to express our feelings.

Reading Group Guide

Ernie, a twelve-year-old entrepreneur, has money on his mind. Although Ernie is used to going it on his own, his most lucrative moneymaking scheme -- a pet funeral business -- involves employees. This proves to cause a few disagreements as Ernie learns that money isn't everything.
Pets; Death; Funerals; Moneymaking scams; Friendship
€ Why were the neighborhood kids leery of Cat Lady? Was Ernie brave in going to see her? What did Cat Lady think about Ernie? Did Cat Lady help Ernie? If so, how?
€ How did Swimming Pool feel about her brother, Rick? Describe their relationship.
€ What would you have done if you were Swimming Pool and Ernie did not give you the raise he promised? Do you think that Swimming Pool deserved a raise? Did Ernie make a good business decision? Why or why not?
€ Dusty was a neutral friend of Ernie and Swimming Pool. Is there anything that he could have done differently to help the relationship between the two? Do you think that Ernie treated Dusty fairly for his share of work in the business? Why or why not?
€ Was Ernie a good businessman or did he take advantage of people? Explain.
€ Design your own theme for a pet funeral. Plan the entire funeral including the schedule, program, and any props to enhance your theme.
€ Write an obituary for a pet.
€ Write an advertisement for one of the jobs in the story.
€ Choose a character and write a persuasive letter asking your boss for a raise.
€ Research salaries of interesting jobs.
€ Create a 3-D tombstone for one of the pet funerals. Do research to find out what information is included on a tombstone.
This reading group guide is for classroom, library, and reading group use. It may be reproduced in its entirety or excerpted for these purposes.
Prepared by Theresa Love
© William Allen White Children's Book Award
Please visit for more information about the awards and to see curriculum guides for other master list titles.

About The Author

Doug Cooney is the author of the middle-grade novels The
Beloved Dearly
and I Know Who Likes You. His musical
adaptation of George Saunders's The Very Persistent Gappers of
recently premiered at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Los Angeles,
produced by the Mark Taper Forum P.L.A.Y. Cooney also teaches songwriting
and collaboration for Voices Within, an educational outreach program of
the Los Angeles Master Chorale. He divides his time between Los Angeles
and South Florida. You can visit him at

About The Illustrator

Photo credit: Kim Pilla

#1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi has been creating children’s books for over twenty years. From fanciful picture books like The Spider & the Fly to chapter book series like the Search for WondLa, DiTerlizzi imbues his stories with a rich imagination. With Holly Black, he created the middle grade series the Spiderwick Chronicles, which has sold 20 million copies, been adapted into a feature film, and been translated in over thirty countries. The Norman Rockwell Museum’s exhibition “Never Abandon Imagination” featured artwork from the beginning of DiTerlizzi’s career as a contributing artist for Dungeons & Dragons and broke attendance records. He has been featured in Time magazine and USA TODAY and on CNN, PBS, NPR, the BBC, and the Today show.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (August 1, 2003)
  • Length: 192 pages
  • ISBN13: 9780689863547
  • Ages: 8 - 12

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Awards and Honors

  • Maud Hart Lovelace Award Nominee (MN)
  • William Allen White Children's Book Award (KS)
  • Land of Enchantment RoadRunner Award Nominee (NM)
  • Golden Sower Award Nominee (NE)
  • Sunshine State Young Readers' Award List (FL)

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More books from this author: Doug Cooney

More books from this illustrator: Tony DiTerlizzi