What are some key quotations and themes in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Edgar Sawtelle is a young deaf boy who grows up with an extraordinary connection to the dogs he and his family breed and train. In the midst of his contented life, tragedy strikes and Edgar must learn how to adapt, something he is better at in some ways than in others.

Two of the most significant themes from The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski include the following:

  1. Change is inevitable

Edgar loses his father and suspects that his father's brother, Claude, had something to do with it. Even worse for the boy is the fact that his mother becomes involved with his trouble-maker Uncle Claude. The animals and business he so loves are in jeopardy, and the changes are not positive ones. Edgar's mother addresses the issue with him this way:

“Edgar, there's a difference between missing him and wanting nothing to change," she said. "They aren't the same things at all. And we can't do anything about either one. Things always change. Things would be changing right now if your father were alive, Edgar. That's just life. You can fight it or you accept it. The only difference is, if you accept it, you can get to do other things. If you fight it, you're stuck in the same spot forever. Does that make sense?"

   2.  Bloodlines (heritage and legacy) matter.

The Sawtelles, starting with Edgar's grandfather, have raised dogs, and they keep records of all of the dogs who are bred and born as part of a canine lineage. Where a dog comes from is a predictor of what kind of dog it will be. How it is trained after that matters, but the breeding is essential to the mix. Edgar's father explains it to his son this way:

So a dog's value came from the training and the breeding. And by breeding, Edgar supposed he meant both the bloodlines--the particular dogs in their ancestry--and all the information in the file cabinets. Because the files, with their photographs, measurements, notes, charts, cross-references, and scores, told the story of the dog--what it meant, as his father put it.

This principle is true not only of dogs but of humans, as Edgar discovers with his father, with Claude, and with himself.

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