Beloved Dearly

Beloved Dearly

5.0 6
by Doug Cooney, Tony DiTerlizzi

View All Available Formats & Editions

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


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.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
School Library Journal Witty, clever, yet touching...

Booklist Something kids won't have seen before.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Cooney recasts his stage play of the same name as a debut novel featuring a funny, offbeat premise. When Ernie Castellano is busted at school for one of his get-rich-quick schemes hawking cheeseburgers on mystery meat day he's grounded. The discovery of an empty lot proves irresistible to the young entrepreneur, however, and soon he's sneaking behind his father's back to start a pet funeral business. With the help of a handful of employees, including a scruffy nine-year-old artist who makes the caskets, and Swimming Pool, a professional mourner who can cry on demand, business is soon booming. But Ernie grows increasingly dictatorial and estranged from his new friends, and not until the death of his own dog does he learn there's more to value in life than cold hard cash. Cooney's background as a playwright is evident in the tight arc of the story and in the snappy dialogue. Some of the zaniness has an edge of forced hilarity, and some characters are cliched including the fast-talking Ernie ("Tell Mom and Dad you're going to a movie, you need the popcorn, score the ten bucks, and give little Frisky the send-off he deserves"). But the themes are credibly developed and the ending in particular has emotional resonance. This is a likable story with solid appeal. Ages 8-12. (Feb.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Publishers Weekly
A young entrepreneur known for his get-rich-quick schemes uses an empty parking lot to start a pet funeral business in what PW called "a likeable story with solid appeal." Ages 8-12. (Aug.) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Children's Literature
Ernie, a cartoon character of a kid, opens a pet cemetery—the latest in a series of entrepreneurial pursuits, which keep him in trouble at home and school. It appears his prior schemes, though, did not include co-workers, and now Ernie finds he needs others to help him. In this "Lil Rascals meets Management 101" tale, Ernie's understanding of friendship grows in tandem with the booming and zany funeral business, as he learns to treat others less like cogs in his capitalist machinery, and more like people. The end of the book has him coming to terms with the death of his mother, also, and the author includes the message that "time is precious," but the story lacks the depth to really reach these themes. Originally written and performed as a play, there is a definite sense that it should be seen to be fully appreciated. Still, this lively black comedy is refreshingly different. A great creative touch is the making of artsy coffins from recyclables, such as a shoebox ("Jurassic Bunny Box"), a mailing tube ("Star Studded Cylinder for Sissy the Snake") and an oatmeal container (with stripes—"Cat in the Hat for Matt's Dead Cat.") The cover art and interior illustrations are quite good, but there could have been more careful attention to the textual descriptions to avoid mistakes such as the wrong color and style of clothing. All in all, it is a fun and quirky read that kids should enjoy. 2002, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, $16.00. Ages 8 to 12. Reviewer:Jane Harrington
School Library Journal
Gr 4-7-Twelve-year-old Ernie Castellano is a real wheeler and dealer. After getting busted again at school for his plan for making big bucks (previous plans included selling booger insurance and used homework), his father tells him no more business schemes are allowed. However, Ernie spots an empty lot that would make a perfect cemetery and starts a pet funeral business. He hires Dusty, who enthusiastically decorates theme caskets for animals. Ernie also hires Swimming Pool, a tomboy who is trying to deal with her older brother leaving home due to family tensions. A number of successful funerals ensue as Ernie becomes increasingly hard-hearted toward his employees and customers. His callousness causes Swimming Pool to quit, while Dusty tries to repair the trio's friendship. It isn't until Ernie's elderly pet, Mr. Doggie, dies and the funeral business is discovered by his dad that Ernie begins to comprehend that there are more important things than making money. The language, tone, and plotting of the novel by Doug Cooney (S&S, 2002) is reminiscent of children's books of the 1950's. The only indication that this is a contemporary story is the mention of Ernie's cell phone. The touching ending occurs too quickly, not allowing listeners time to sufficiently enjoy Ernie's change of heart. In this full cast recording, Doug Cooney narrates. Carmen Viviano-Crafts does an effective job as Swimming Pool, Ryan Sparkes voices an endearing Dusty, and Spencer Murphy as Ernie is appropriately smarmy and brisk. This audiobook will be enjoyed by middle graders looking for humor and unusually snappy dialogue.-B. Allison Gray, South Country Library, Bellport, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Recast from a prizewinning stage production, this patchy tale of a young entrepreneur has a satiric edge that will play better to adult audiences. Ever on the lookout for moneymaking opportunities, young Ernie Castellano hits paydirt when he converts an empty lot into a pet cemetery. Thanks to some high pressure sales tactics, plus a hired staff than includes Dusty, a nerdy but loyal artist with a genius for turning junk into elaborately decorated coffins; Swimming Pool, quaintly introduced as a "tomboy," who discovers an innate talent for feeling a bereaved pet owner's pain; and Tony, a "scrappy" eight-year-old boy-with-a-shovel, the funeral biz is soon booming. It's not hard to see this show's theatrical roots in the thoroughly typecast characters and in snappy, Little Rascals-style dialogue (Tony: " ‘It's not complicated. When I got a gig, I gotta dig. That's my motto. I'm an independent contractor' ") that Cooney's interpolated narrative passages only serve to slow down. Most of all there's a string of stagy set pieces that end with Ernie and his Dad both grieving in the wake of Ernie's Mom's death from cancer, growing closer by decorating the grave of the family dog together. Young readers are unlikely to give this a standing ovation, but the broadly brushed comedy and sentiment may draw an occasional chuckle or tear. (Fiction. 10-12)

Product Details

Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.50(d)
Age Range:
8 - 12 Years

Read an Excerpt

Chapter Four: Get to Work

The first thing that Ernie wrote down in his game plan was the word employees.

He scrawled it in his notebook under the heading Things to Do and he marked it with a star. If Ernie was going to make this project happen, he needed help. The lot was a mess. He couldn't do it all by himself. He needed employees for the dirty work. Ernie thought and thought -- and really only one kid came to mind.

Dusty. The strange kid from three doors down.

After his mom died, Ernie had transferred from the Catholic school across town -- which was his mom's alma mater -- back to the public school in his own neighborhood. "Gotta cut back somewhere," his dad said, meaning the tuition. Ernie didn't mind, except he didn't actually know the kids in his own neighborhood, so all the kids at his new school were basically strangers.

The next afternoon, Ernie tracked down Dusty. He found him leaning over a patch of wet cement in the sidewalk. Ernie ducked behind a tree to see what Dusty was up to.

As Ernie watched, Dusty reached into a large cardboard box beside him and raised an old china plate into the air.

Ernie could never have predicted what happened next.

Dusty smashed the plate against the curb so hard that it shattered into pieces. Then he calmly sifted through the shards until he had selected one particular chip.

Dusty studied the piece closely, rolling it back and forth between his fingers. After some careful thought, he tossed it aside.

When Dusty finally found a shard that was satisfactory, he leaned over the wet cement and carefully pressed the chip into position. For several minutes, he worked in this slow and careful manner.

"This could take forever," Ernie said to himself.

When Dusty was finally done, he sat back to admire his creation. Of course, Ernie had edged closer behind a hedge so that he could see what Dusty was doing. Poking his head through the branches, Ernie saw an elaborate mosaic in the wet cement depicting an intergalactic space battle in wild cartoon colors.

Ernie was impressed. Very impressed.

Unfortunately, a moment later, a boot smashed down right into the middle of the wet cement; a boot belonging to Dion, the neighborhood bully. Dion was a nightmare and a constant threat. Everyone kept wishing he would either grow up or move away. Until that happened, there wasn't much that anyone could do about Dion.

As Dion trampled the wet cement, Dusty flailed helplessly to protect his mosaic.

"Quit! Stop it!"

"Biff! Poweee! Socko! Ooooff!" Dion barked as he stomped.

Ernie ducked inside the hedge. It felt a little cowardly, but Ernie was one to pick his battles wisely.

"Stop! You ruined it!" Dusty cried, pretty much stating the obvious. It was kind of pathetic.

"What are you gonna do, Freakazoid?" Dion snarled.

When the deed was done, Dion charged down the sidewalk. And indeed, the mosaic was demolished. Dusty sat back on his heels, splattered with cement, too wounded to speak, too hurt to cry.

At that moment, a shadow arched over the ruined mosaic. Dusty winced into the sunlight to see who it was.

No surprise here. It was Ernie.

Ernie squatted beside the wet cement and said, "Sweet while it lasted, huh, kid?" He ran his hand over the remnants and continued, "Clever, inventive. Got a sense of humor. And the old plates keep your costs down."

Ernie brushed his hands off and held one out for a handshake. "Good work, kid," he said. "I been looking for a kid like you. Name's Ernie."

"Dusty," said Dusty, wiping off his palm and shaking Ernie's hand.

"Oh, I know your name, all right," said Ernie.

Dusty was bewildered. Nobody in the neighborhood had ever talked to him this way before. They usually just acted as though he was weird.

"I need boxes," Ernie announced with a sense of purpose. "Well, not just boxes. More like boxes for a funeral, say."

"For a funeral?" Dusty asked, completely confused. "You mean, you need a coffin?"

"I prefer the word...sarcophagus," Ernie said with relish. "It's Egyptian. But never mind about that. Got a minute? I got a proposition for you."

And that was how Ernie and Dusty came to be friends.

It was Dusty who tipped Ernie off to Tony. "Look for the kid with the shovel," is what he said. "You can't miss him."

On Dusty's recommendation, Ernie found himself leaning against a lemonade stand late in the afternoon.

Looking across the street, Ernie saw a scrappy little boy, about seven or eight, and sure enough he was flinging a great big shovel, almost twice his size. That must be Tony, he thought.

Tony patted down a freshly filled hole and wiped his brow. With the job done, Tony squinted across the street at the lemonade stand and headed in that direction. He dragged the shovel on the pavement behind him and it made an awful sound.

Ernie arranged himself at the counter so that he looked all nonchalant.

Tony arrived and gestured at the Sweaty Lemonade Girl behind the counter. "Hit me with the usual," he said.

Sweaty Lemonade Girl snapped back, "Move along, Stinky. You scare away the customers." She pinched her fingers over her nose and stuck out her tongue.

Tony balked. "Hey," he cried, all indignant and offended, and why shouldn't he be?

Ernie cleared his throat and rolled his eyes. Tony was stinky -- but Sweaty Lemonade Girl was no prize either. Clearly, he thought, Sweaty Lemonade Girl has no idea how to run a business.

Ernie tossed a few coins on the counter. "Put that one on me," he said.

Sweaty Lemonade Girl eyed the coins and begrudgingly poured a glass of lemonade for Tony. She put it on the counter and scooped up the change.

"Thanks, mister," the kid said, turning toward Ernie. "Name's Tony."

"Ernie, here. Pretty good with a shovel, kid," said Ernie.

"I try," said Tony with a shrug.

Ernie leaned in confidentially and lowered his voice so that Sweaty Lemonade Girl couldn't overhear. "I'm looking for somebody to dig a few holes," he said. "You interested?"

Tony looked both ways and back across the counter. Sweaty Lemonade Girl pursed her lips and arched her eyebrows as if she was suddenly all interested in Tony's business.

Tony turned his back to the counter and perched against his elbows. He tilted his head toward Ernie and answered, "Depends." He knocked back his lemonade, crumpled the cup, and chucked it over the counter.

"Hey!" Sweaty Lemonade Girl grumbled with annoyance. As she bent over to pick up the cup, Tony leaned in confidentially against Ernie and whispered, "What do I have to bury?"

Over the next week, Ernie had Tony and Dusty working like dogs on the empty lot. Tony hacked through the undergrowth with a huge pair of hedge clippers he had borrowed from his dad. Dusty spent the afternoon hauling all manner of debris to the curb.

When the shrubs and trees were clipped back, Tony showed up with his dad's Weedwacker and carefully cut the grass until it was as smooth as a golf course's. Ernie tried to take a crack at the Weed-wacker himself, but Tony held him off.

"Forget it, Mr. Castellano," Tony said, "this is a job for a professional."

When the yard was finally cleaned up, they set about making improvements. And that was when Dusty went to town.

Dusty's first idea was to scavenge through the neighborhood for discarded plants and potted mums. He showed up with a red wagon full of wilted plants, mostly with dead blossoms.

Tony took one look at the wagon and said, "Who died?"

"I don't know about this, Dusty," said Ernie. "Those flowers look kind of ragged and pathetic."

"Give 'em time, Boss," Dusty insisted. "They'll look better in time."

Dusty replanted the flowers around the base of the trees. After a little sunlight and a little water, Ernie had to agree with Dusty. The flowers didn't look bad at all.

Pretty soon, they were all coming up with great ideas like that.

Tony had found a slightly trashed trestle in the alley and dragged it into the lot. "I figure, fix the broken slats with a couple nails, slap on a fresh coat of paint," Tony said, "it'll be like brand new."

And it pretty much was. When the paint had dried, Dusty tugged overgrown vines from the fence and laced them through the trestle, hoping they would grow.

As he was weaving the vines, Ernie arrived with a broken piano bench he'd found on the curb. He placed it below the trestle. "It'll be a place for quiet reflection," he said.

"That's just what I was thinking," Dusty agreed.

Ernie remembered an aluminum picnic table in the basement that they never used anymore. It had belonged to his mom before he was born. He and Tony carried the picnic table upstairs and hauled it down the alley. They positioned it on the back side of the lot and moved it five different times until Dusty decided that it was in the right spot.

Meanwhile, Dusty was scouring the neighborhood for big, flat rocks. He covered the picnic table with newspaper and spent the afternoon painting the rocks all sorts of different colors. "It's like painting Easter eggs," he said, "only much much bigger."

When Dusty was done, they laid the painted rocks in a winding trail across the lawn. It was backbreaking work -- but after he put the last rock in place, Tony looked at Ernie and nodded in favor. Ernie smiled. "The place is looking good," he told Tony. "I tell you, that Dusty, he's got a million ideas."

For the crowning touch, Dusty climbed on Ernie's shoulders to crawl into the tallest tree on the lot. Clinging to the overhead branches, Dusty hung that wind chime he'd been working on. It was made out of those wire hangers, and he had added lots of discarded silverware, hammered flat.

Every time a breeze brushed through the tree, the wind chime clanked and clattered and sent a strange little tune into the air.

All in all, they had turned the old abandoned lot into a lovely little garden.

Only nobody knew.

Text copyright © 2002 by Doug Cooney

Meet 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

Tony DiTerlizzi is a New York Times bestselling author and illustrator who has been creating books with Simon & Schuster for more than a decade. From his fanciful picture books like Jimmy Zangwow’s Out-of-this-World Moon Pie Adventure, Adventure of Meno (with his wife, Angela), and The Spider & The Fly (a Caldecott Honor book), to chapter books like Kenny and The Dragon and The Search for WondLa, Tony always imbues his stories with a rich imagination. His middle grade series, The Spiderwick Chronicles (with Holly Black), has sold millions of copies, been adapted into a feature film, and has been translated in more than thirty countries. You can visit him at

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >

The Beloved Dearly 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thought The Beloved Dearly was truely a excellent read for people who enjoy good neighborhood kids books and those of you who just love to read. I really enjoyed the book! If you liked this book, try reading the sequel, now that's a GOOD book!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ernie's a 12 year old child who's mother died and his dad's pretending she didn't, which makes it worst. He's into doing business, which gets him into trouble. He hires a tom-boy fora sceem he's doing, for the position of a 'cry baby'. Simmingpool, the tom-boy, is the money maker for the business,her family has some issues. Her brother keeps running away, her parents are never home and the rest of her brothers are so mean to her. Ernie's always trying to find a quick buck, which he finds himself in trouble, most of the time. This business sceem is for childrens dead pets, pet funerals. He hires a child named Dusty, to create the funeral boxes, another child named tony to dig the holes. his prize find was Swimmingpool, a tom-boy who can cry on que. Business is great for Ernie, until he loses Swimmingpool over a raise and the business falls apart. Then Red ,Ernies dad, finds out after he tells Ernie not to do any more sceems,so now Ernie's grounded, after a few days Red comes to his senses, after their dog dies, to allow him to do the business. Fuller Sreet is the street Ernie lives on and where the abandoned lot's located down the alley from his house. Ernie and Swimmingpool are both 12, Dusty's 9 and Tony's7or8.{book's published in 2003,this is a fiction book} The moral of this story is obey your parents the first time they tell you something because they might let you off the hook the first time but when you keep on doingit you'll get in more and more trouble. I really liked this story, because I thought it was really funny and I love comedy.This is a story about friendships, losses,and business. I'd reccomend it for both girls and boys. It was a fast read, has 30 chaptersznd 183 pages. I thought I could connect with the story because I used to look for a quick buck with my brother and friends. I've read not many books with a sceeming child in it, if I did the child never sceemed people for their money again. i thin k children in the world could connect with Ernie because they might be looking for a quick buck, but they might be doing it for the right reason.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great! Funny! Endearing! Memories! If you want a book like that, read or listen to this one! this is one of the sweetest, warm your heart stories that I have ever listened to. I work at a small branch library, so I have access to a lot of books. As I was checking in books one day the 'book on tape' version of 'Beloved Dearly' was in the drop box. I saw the title and illustration and it grabbed my attention right away. I guess it reminded me of my childhood. I started listening to it on the way home. What a delightful story. I was laughing so hard I could hardly drive. The next morning while I was taking my granddaughter to school and listening to the story, she ask me what I was listening too. She started listening to it and made me start all over again. Each day we would listen to the Ernie, Dusty and CryBaby have crisis after crisis. We were laughing and discussing each character to and from school. It was like the kids lived in our neighborhood. The kids reminded me of my childhood. This story brought back all the goofy things my cousins and I did as kids.One Thanksgiving we took all the leftovers from Thanksgiving dinner and made a booth out in front of my grandmother's house and was selling the food to people driving by. Boy, did we ever get in trouble when someone went to get a pieace of my grandmother's delicious pie and there was none left. If you want a funny, loving story that brings back memories of days gone by and of a life that was simplier, pick up this book. I guarantee you will want to read until it the end and then be disappointed that it did. I recommend this book to kids and adults alike.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ernie is a 12 year old boy who is always looking for fast cash.One day Ernie finds a abandoned lot were he gets a idea to hold pet funeruls there. He hires Dusty the strangest kid in the neighborhood to decorate the burial boxes. But that isn't what makes buisness going, Swimming Pool a tomboy who cries a river makes buisness going by.Everything is going great until Ernie loses Swimming Pool in a raise to get buisness in shape. A fun filling journey about friendship and buisness.