Monday, August 21, 2006

book it

There are lots of programs that try to get kids to read. In kindergarten we watched the Letter People. I didn't like to pay attention to that part of class because I knew that when it was over I had to take a nap, and I didn't much like that. So Brent Adair and I would talk until the teacher yelled at us, which was often... I only have vague memories of Pizza Hut's Book-It program as a kid. It was something about if you read a certain number of books, you would get a free pizza? I would probably remember if I liked their pizza, but grease isn't a good motivator for me... I do remember the Accelerated Reader program, where books on different grade levels had different point values; you would take a computer test after reading a book, and the points could be tallied for prizes....

There's really not a better reading program
than a literate home.

One book that changed my life: Tip written by Paul McGee, M. Lucille Harrison, Annie McCowen, and Elizabeth Lehr (published by Houghton Mifflin Company, copyright 1949) with special notes to two other great books, Tip and Mitten and Tip and the Big Show.

(page one) Tip!
(page two) Tip! Tip!

This is where it all began for me. Between index cards labeling everything in the kitchen and the Tip books, Sister and I were bound to learn how to read before we were in preschool, thanks to a literate home supervised by two talented educators.

(I hated the word lists in the back of the books, but if I could read through all of them without missing a word, Dad would give me a dime, which was big, shiny money at the time.)

One book I've read more than once: Child of God written by Cormac McCarthy.

To watch these things issuing from the otherwise mute pastoral morning is a man at the barn door. He is small, unclean, unshaven. He moves in the dry chaff among the dust and slats of sunlight with a constrained truculence. Saxon and Celtic bloods. A child of God much like yourself perhaps.
This book was required reading for one of my lit classes in college. (Southern Lit?) I was so taken by McCarthy's writing style and ability to tell a story that I found myself arguing in favor of finishing the book in class. There were two of us who argued for finishing it; the other twenty-five argued that it was a dirty book and refused to finish it. I've probably read it a dozen times since then. I'll still argue in its favor as a piece of literature, and I'll still argue until I'm blue in the face that people don't like Lester Ballard because there's a little of an ignorant, dirty Lester in all of us, and we've been raised in a society to feel guilty for empathizing with the dirty children of God.

One book I would want on a desert island: The Giver written by Lois Lowry.

"Jonas," she said, speaking not to him alone but to the entire community of which he was a part, "you will be trained to be our next Receiver of Memory. We thank you for your childhood."
Then she turned and left the stage, left him there alone, standing and facing the crowd, which began spontaneously the collective murmur of his name.
"Jonas." It was a whisper at first: hushed, barely audible. "Jonas. Jonas."
Then louder, faster. "JONAS. JONAS. JONAS."
With the chant, Jonas knew, the community was giving him life, the way they had given it to the newchild Caleb. His heart swelled with gratitude and pride.
But at the same time he was filled with fear. He did not know what his selection meant. He did not know what he was to become.
Or what would become of him.
I'm actually cheating because this is another of my favorite must re-reads, and have no idea how many times I've actually read it. It's definitely one of my most favorites. The copy I have was from Mom's classroom, and is still marked on the inside cover (that's been reinforced with contact paper and clear book tape) with her name, the grade level of the book, and how many accelerated reader points it is worth.

This would be the most perfect book for a deserted island because it's such a positive, good story. It's got enough imagination to keep you going until the Coast Guard finds you.

One book that made me laugh: The Stupids Step Out written by Harry G. Allard.

One day Stanley Q. Stupid had an idea.
This was unusual.

"Calling all Stupids!" Stanley shouted.
Mrs. Stupid, Buster Stupid, Petunia Stupid, and the Stupids' wonderful dog Kitty all crawled out from under the rug.
"The Stupids are stepping out today," said Stanley.
The Stupids were delighted.
Oh dear, sweet Stupid family. There were a whole set of the Stupid books at the county library, and if we were really lucky they would be in when Mom would take us. The illustrating (James Marshall) is as stupid as the Stupids' exploits, which made the books fun.

They still make me laugh, as do my own family's exploits. When one of us makes an incredibly goofy mistake, we've been known to start the story with "the Stupids stepped out", followed by whatever new misadventure became of the day. You know it's a good book when, twenty years later, you can still reference it during normal conversation.

One book that made me cry: Walking Taylor Home written by Brian Schrauger.

Early Monday morning on August 2nd, 1999, our family was at Vanderbilt's OR for kids. The time had come to cut away part of Taylor's lung. Taylor was excited.
When his surgeon Dr. John Pietsch (pronounced "peach") came in and asked. "How are you this morning, Taylor?" Taylore never missed a beat.
"Just peachy," he replied, laughter in his eyes. Pietsch's eyes laughed back.

Taylor was two weeks from turning ten years old when he was diagnosed with cancer. His dad, Brian, tells this story about their journey through the c-bomb as a family, and how it impacted their faith in God and each other. I was introduced to this book while in nursing school at MTSU; Brian spoke with my class, thanking us for entering the nursing profession, and told Taylor's story. I knew I had to have the book.

If you look at it as only a book about a kid who dies of cancer, sure, that will be a downer. But this book is much more than that -- it's a journey of hope, anger, joy, and life. It's a great story. The first time I read it I was flying to OKC to visit The Hater*, and I boo-hoo'd in the airport, on the airplane, during the layover, as I read the book. And when people half-glanced my direction, I just pointed to the book. I fortunately finished reading it before landing in OKC, but The Hater did question my bloodshot eyes.

One book I wish had been written: Accessing Your Personal Jump Drive: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Downloading Infinite Information Quickly, Painlessly, and Without Study

Step One: Assume the position.

I wished for this book every night when I was in nursing school. I figured if the Idiot company could tell you everything you wanted to know about Freemasonry or Pirates, they could at least take on a Neo-esque project, too.

One book I am currently reading: Me Talk Pretty One Day written by David Sedaris

By the time we entered our teens, we were exhausted. No longer interested in the water, we joined our mother on the beach blanket and decidated ourselves to the higher art of tanning. Under her guidance, we learned which lotions to start off with, and what worked best for various weather conditions and times of day. She taught us that the combination of false confidence and Hawiian Tropic could result in a painful and unsightly burn, certain to subtract valuable points when, on the final night of vacation, contestants gathered for the annual Miss Emoillient Pageant. This was a contest judged by our mother, in which the holder of the darkest tan was awarded a crown, a sash, and a scepter.
Technically, the prize could go to either a male or a female, but the sash read MISS EMOILLENT because it was always assumed that my sister Gretchen would once again sweep the title. For her, tanning had moved from an intense hobby to something more closely resembling a psychological dysfunction. She was what we called a tanorexic: someone who simply could not get enough. Year after year she arrived at the beach with a base coat that the rest of us could only dream of achieving as our final product. With a mixture of awe and envy we watched her broiling away on her aluminum blanket. The spaces between her toes were tanned, as were her palms and even the backs of her ears. Her method involved baby oil and a series of poses that tended to draw crowds, the mothers shielding their children's eyes with sand-covered fingers.
Sister included this book in "The Big Box of Cancer Fun" that Mom and Dad brought to OKC for my first surgery. It's been eyeing me for a few months, and I'm glad I finally sat down to start reading it. It's an amusing, easy read, which is exactly what I need in my life right now.

One book I am meaning to read:
Are you kidding? That list is way longer than one book.

* This could have been the same trip when he proposed to me!


genderist said...

The problem with this post was being able to quote books -- because my library is partly divided and some of it is boxed away... so in order to quote, I had to choose from the books that were accessable.

If we're out later, don't quote me on the favorites!

If you want a tag meme, steal away.
(I did...)

Angela said...

Thanks for the great suggestions! It's always nice to get a first hand recommendation!

Kate said...

If you liked The Giver (that was Grade 9 for us in school, and changed my perception of school-enforced literature - I really enjoyed it!), try The Chrysalids. Another one that made me stop and think (grades 9 and 10 were good years for me!).

genderist said...

I've read The Chrysalids! It's also a good one...

Angela DePriest said...

Hi there, saw your comments about Brian's book, Walking Taylor Home. Thought you'd like to know that Brian Schrauger will have a new book out soon.

The book is called Pilgrimage of Sorrow. It picks up where Walking Taylor Home left off, the day Taylor dies. But the book is really about dealing with grief and anger. Mostly it's about healing and understanding. Two publishers are bidding on it right now. But you can start looking for it on Amazon in about 6 months.

It's a brilliant book, and I'm sure you'll enjoy it.

Brent said...

Hi! Brent Adair here. Just wondering who this was, since my name was mentioned in the blog :)