Why I Love Books

 

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“…I was paying for a book one day – I remember this so clearly- when Mr. Penumbra looked me in the eye and said, ‘Rosemary’” she does a good Penumbra impression-”’Rosemary, why do you love books so much?”
“And I said, ‘Well, I don’t know.’” She’s animated, girlish now: “‘I suppose I love them because they’re quiet, and I can take them to the park,’” She narrows her eyes. “He watched me, and he didn’t say a word. So then I said, ‘Well, actually, I love books because books are my best friends.’ Then he smiled – he has a wonderful smile – and he walked over and got on that ladder, and climbed higher than I’d ever seen him climb.”
From Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

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This got me to thinking about why I love books. I agree they are quiet and I can take them just about anywhere. I wouldn’t say it’s because they are my best friends, though perhaps I should consider making them my best friends seeing as I need some. Anyhow, why DO I love books so much?

I love that I can travel to places I might not ever get to otherwise. I can also read about places where I’ve been and relive memories from past times and places.

I love to meet characters that inspire me, make me smile, make me cry. I come to care about what happens to these characters. Watching them live and grow, suffer and rejoice, is often a balm to my spirit. Many of them remind me of people I know.

I love to read another author’s words and think ‘A-ha!’ because it’s exactly what I am thinking or feeling. Sometimes I am surprised at the emotions that rise up within me. Sometimes the words lead to thoughts and inspire words in me that I must write down.

It’s not just books, either. It’s bookstores, especially used ones, with their lovely old smells and shelves of treasures just waiting to be unearthed. It’s the bookish conversations with staff and other customers. It’s the bookmarks and notepads. And sometimes it’s the coffee.

Thoughts Stirred by The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society #2

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“I remember lying in our hay-loft reading The Secret Garden with a cowbell beside me. I’d read for an hour and then ring the bell for a glass of lemonade to be brought to me. Mrs. Hutchins, the cook, finally grew weary of this arrangement and told my mother, and that was the end of my cowbell, but not my reading on the hay.” (Juliet to Dawsey)

The Secret Garden was written by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who also wrote A Little Princess. When I was about 10 years old, my Aunt Billie gave me a copy of  A Little Princess. It was the only time I remember getting a gift from her and it was one of the first hardback books I ever owned. I absolutely loved it! There have been several movie versions produced, but none compared to what I imagined as It read this treasure.

A few years later I received a make-up mirror for Christmas. This was not only used in vain attempts to glamorize my pudgy adolescent face, but it was also a boon to my evening reading. Many a night I would settle this device under my covers and read after bedtime without being caught.

My daughter-in-law has made a cozy reading nook in my grandkids room, with cushy pillows and a string of colorful star lights. I would have been over the moon with a space like that as a kid! They both love books; the six year old is a beginning reader and it warms my heart to hear him read so eagerly. I’ve found that books with CDs are fantastic in the car – they listen and read along and don’t fight (as much).

If you are a parent, grandparent, teacher, aunt, friend – I hope you are able to be a part of a young reader’s life. I am grateful to my Aunt Billie for giving me that book, to my parents for driving me to the public library downtown, to my elementary school librarian for introducing me Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, and to my husband who loves exploring used bookstores as much as I do.

 

Young Girls Reading

The prompt for Day 6 of PAD 2016 was to write an  ekphrastic poem. An ekphrastic poem is a poem inspired by art. My poem was inspired by A Young Girl Reading by Jean-Honore Fragonard. When we saw the original painting, my daughters were 19 and almost 12.

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Young Girls Reading

When you girls were young
an eight-by-ten of
A Young Girl Reading
hung on the bedroom wall
I would look at her
and see you both
curled up somewhere
book in hand
then one day
in the National Gallery of Art
there it was
and we marveled
at the kinship we felt
with that girl in the yellow dress

You can read more ekphrastic poems at Writer’s Digest  2016 April PAD Challenge: Day 6

Kid Picks for Martin Luther King Day

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Martin Luther King Day is January 18th It has been a national holiday since 1983 and a school holiday for most children.  A chance for kids to stay home and chill. But, what if they spent some of that day reading about why they are home in the first place?

There are numerous fictional stories aimed at kids that bring to life the real struggle for civil rights. These stories can open eyes better than many a dry history lesson. I’m not saying as a replacement, but as an addition. In elementary and intermediate school it’s easier for teachers to integrate lessons and subjects, but in middle school it takes more effort and planning. That being said, what follows is a short list of well-written books that teachers could use, parents could suggest, or kids might just pick up and read. I’ve read each of these, and I’m sure there are many others out there.

 

FRANCIE, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Book, is a good look at life before the Civil Rights movement made its way on the scene.  This wonderfully written story, by Karen English, takes place in the 40s or 50s in rural Alabama. Written from the viewpoint of the title character, Francie Weaver, it tells of a life of hard work and discrimination, and how sometimes you just have to stick your neck out for the less fortunate.

 

THE WATSONS GO TO BIRMINGHAM, 1963, written by Christopher Paul Curtis, is one of my favorite middle-grades books.  In fact, it tied in to the original title of my blog, now called Carry Me Home. This story begins and ends in Flint, Michigan, with a trip to B’ham in the middle.  Readers will laugh and cry along with the Watson family as the kids experience the south for the first time.

As in many coming of age stories, there is a loss of innocence and a struggle with the knowledge that the world is a complex place. This happens not only with the main character, Kenny, but also with his older brother, Byron. Though filled with humor, this book deals with racial issues in a way that opens the eyes of the reader.

 

GLORY BE is a middle-grades novel  by Augusta Scattergood. The story takes place in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer, 1964.

Glory is the main character who turns twelve on July Fourth, in the midst of a very unsettling time in the fictional town of Hanging Moss. (There is a real neighborhood called Hanging Moss East in Jackson, MS). The book is well written and keeps the attention of the reader. There are numerous other characters, including her sister Jesslyn; old friend-enemy-friend Frankie; new friend Laura; and the new guy in town who looks just a bit like Elvis. The author did her homework to make the story believable and accurate.

 

CROSSING JORDAN was written by an author who has a real heart for children.  “Sometimes an author writes a book because they feel they have to do something. CROSSING JORDAN is that kind of book. I wrote it for the girl next door and for any other kid who is being taught prejudice at home,” says Adrian Fogelin. I heard  Fogelin speak at a writers’ conference   and have since followed her on facebook and at her blog.

This book is a story of friendship amidst the backdrop of prejudice circa 2000. Cassie (white) tells the story of her budding friendship with Jemmie (black) who has moved in next door.  Set in Florida, where the author lives, it is a touching and believable story.

 

The books in this selection are suitable for younger children, also. And for adults, like me, who enjoy a good story no matter the recommended reading level.

 

 

 

 

 

 

To Ban or Not to Ban

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Is there a place for banned books? I think there is. Some books require a degree of maturity to read and should not be readily available to children who are not ready to make mature, informed decisions about what they read. In a local middle school there was a book on display – a popular one it seems as it was well worn. It dealt with suicide, which I’m not against addressing, but there was a lot of language that sounded like it came from the mouth of the proverbial sailor. The story could have been handled in a much different way, not catering to the hormones of preteens and stooping to gutter talk, but in a way that would reach the heart and mind of an adolescent.

I saw a list of books a while back that have been banned at some time or another and discovered I have read six of them. All but one (the one I didn’t finish so not sure about it) I think could be read by a teen and understood. There are insights into the human spirit in each of them.

The ones on the list that I have read are: Bridge to Terabithia, Lord of the Flies, A Wrinkle in Time, The Diary of Anne Frank, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Grapes of Wrath (actually listened to this one from a CD), Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Invisible Man (not sure if I finished it – I was dying of boredom), Where the Wild Things Are.

I have two more on my bookshelf but I haven’t read them yet – Persepolis and Fahrenheit 451 (yes, I know, I should have read it already).

Here’s the link to the list – see if you have read any of them!