Wednesday
Feb112009

Books...Whatcha Gonna Do?

 
Mrs. G. loves books. Her house is filled with them. Her car is filled with them. She even carries a couple of them in her purse. While some people fear heights and great white sharks, Mrs. G’s idea of terror involves being stuck at the DMV or Jiffy Lube without a book to read. Rather than sit quietly and enjoy a moment of self-reflection, Mrs. G. will pull out her Chapstick and read the instructions.

She’s not going to discuss the past legal problems that have ensued as a result of her shady dealings with the various book-of the-month-clubs. It wasn’t until she got her first credit report in her twenties that it occurred to her that she really was obligated to buy those four books following the freebies, and that perhaps she lacked well-grounded judgment in signing up for a few clubs in her cats’ names: Fuzzy and Hershey G.

Mrs. G’s kids are the same way. They are serious book lovers. While her son was a reluctant reader (he got seriously interested in sixth grade), her daughter had a wee obsession; she lugged around a book bag filled to the brim and weighing approximately 22 pounds nearly everywhere she went. Everywhere.

When Mrs. G. was very young, she started the tradition (which she still carries on today) of writing authors whose books she loved, books she just adored. She wrote the authors a simple thank you note…three sentences at the most. Many authors wrote back over the last thirty years, and she has them all tied up in a pink satin ribbon and tucked in old cracker tin. Mrs. G. encouraged her children to do the same. When Mrs. G’s daughter was about twelve, she decided that she wanted to write Harper Lee to thank her for writing To Kill a Mockingbird. They mailed the thank you note to Harper Lee’s publisher in hopes that it would eventually get to her. Mrs. G. didn’t know at the time that Miss. Lee was a recluse, so the letter came back return to sender. Mrs. G. didn’t tell her daughter because she didn’t want to disappoint her, but Mrs. G. saved the letter because it was heartfelt, sugarcoated sweetness. The letter began:

Dear Miss Harper Lee,

I am ten-years-old and am currently working on eight novels…

You would think with a love so all-consuming that Mrs. G. wouldn’t be such a basket case each fall when she has to distribute the book list to all of the eager students in her literature classes. This nervous condition is not caused by any difficulty in finding books she thinks are worth reading and discussing because, reader, there are just so many, but rather because every single year Mrs. G. has one or two parents who take issue with one or two of her chosen books.

There was the parent who objected to Patricia C. Wrede’s delightful Dealing With Dragons, because in certain religions dragons represent evil of the satanic nature. And just so you know, because this was news to Mrs. G, it’s the European dragons that are the worst spiritual offenders. Chinese dragons aren’t that much of a problem. Of all the continents’ dragons, apparently Eastern dragons are the most benevolent. Who knew? And then there was the dad who expressed concern over the swear words hell and damn in Katherine Paterson’s lovely Bridge to Terebithia. Mrs. G. listened quietly as he went on and on, all the while thinking holy smokes…dang, is damn even technically considered a swear word anymore. Oh, and Mrs. G. will never forget the parent who questioned whether reading The Diary of Anne Frank might be pushing it, because, honestly, the Holocaust was so brutal and depressing.

Well, today ushered in a new complaint and it concerned the hungry wolves in Joan Aiken’s wonderfully creepy Wolves of Willoughby Chase, a Gothic tale, set in England, about a group of cousins whose parents go abroad and leave them with an evil governess named Letitia Slighcarp. When Mrs. G. chose this exciting book, no, she did not realize that it portrayed wolves in a negative light. Which is wrong, because, in fact, there is no record of any human ever being attacked by wolves and Native Americans revere them. Okie dokie then.

Mrs. G. is sort of free and easy when it comes to books. When her kids were younger and she participated in play-groups, Mrs. G. was bombarded with advice on how she should do everything regarding her children–-feed them, potty train them, educate them, put them to bed–-and all that was just fine. But Mrs. G. remembers many of the moms read each and every book their child read before their child did. Mrs. G. tried that for a while, but her kids were voracious readers and she found that pre-reading their books left little time for, well, reading her own books. And she’s selfish that way. She just focused on filling her home’s shelves with good books (old and new) and kept an eye on what came home from the library. And this is how it’s rolled for the last twelve years, with no real problems to speak of.

Mrs. G. learned all her free and easy ways from her mom, another voracious reader. Mrs. G’s mom took Mrs. G. to get her library card pretty much when she was old enough to walk. And Mrs. G’s mom sort of left it that…and went off to read her own books. Mrs. G. was free to work her way through the best and the worst of it. She read the Little House Books, the Five Little Peppers books, the Nancy Drew books and the Trixie Beldon books…Mrs. G. just worked her way through the children’s section until she turned 14.5 and discovered, have mercy, the adult section. And this is where Mrs. G’s literary life took a nose dive for a couple of years…into the abyss known as mass market paperbacks. She got a little taste of Stephen King and Judith Krantz and those creepy books about the brother and sister living up in that attic doing who knows what. But Mrs. G. worked her way through all this, perhaps, age inappropriate and, sometimes, so so quality of books and got back on the road to all things right and good.

Sometimes you have to dig through the trash to get to the good stuff.

So Mrs. G. gets crabby when people get so worked up over fiction. Do we have to be so sensitive about everything. She can’t be responsible for perking up the Holocaust or repairing the reputation of Canus Lupus, the American Wolf. She just wants to read and pass on her love of good books in a free and easy kind of way.

Here are some G. Family favorites:

Elementary

~The Mysteries of Harris Burdick
~Can You Guess My Name?
~Raising Sweetness
~The Catwings series
~Betsy-Tacy series
~Miss Hickory
~The Happy Hollister series
~Cricket in Times Square
~Strawberry Girl
~Time Cat
~Great Brain series
~Mr. Popper’s Penguins
~Chester Cricket’s Pigeon Ride
~Harry Kitten and Tucker Mouse
~Phantom Tollbooth
~The Wainscott Weasel
~Hank the Cowdog series
~The Freddie series
~Mary Poppins series
~Mrs. Piggle Wiggle
~My Father’s Dragon
~The Chet Gecko mysteries
~The Bobbsey Twins
~Understood Betsy
~The Year of Miss Agnes
~Hundred Dresses

 

Middle School

~Trixie Beldon Mysteries
~Frindle
~A Long Way From Chicago/or any Richard Peck Book
~Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
~The Bronze Bow
~The Matchlock Gun
~The Penderwicks series
~The Mysterious Secret Benedict Society
~The Adventures of Hugo Cabret
~The Lightening Thief
~Sisters Grimm series
~Chasing Vermeer
~Inkheart series
~The Thief Lord
~Five Little Pepper series
~Ginger and Pinky Pye
~Wrinkle in Time
~Narnia Chronicles
~Everything on a Waffle
~The Girl of Limberlost
~Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
~Anne of Green Gables
~Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH
~Swiss Family Robinson
~Kidnapped
~Reluctant Dragon
~Snow Queen
~The Hobbit
~Huckleberry Finn
~Adventures of Tom Sawyer
~Small Steps
~Ella Enchanted
~Black Stallion
~Blue Wolf
~My Side of the Mountain
~Crispin Cross of Lead
~The Little Grey Men
~The Sword in the Stone
~A Proud Taste of Scarlet and Miniver
~The Royal Diaries

 

High School

~Education of Little treel
~Great Expectations
~Oliver Twist
~Fair and Tender Ladies
~Endymion Springs
~The Boy in Striped Pajamas
~Star Girl
~To Kill a Mockingbird
~Of Mice and Men
~The Grapes of Wrath
~Frankenstein
~Jane Eyre
~Vanity Fair
~Emma
~Pride & Prejudice
~A Tree Grow in Brooklyn
~A Prayer for Owen Meany
~The Three Musketeers
~I am the Cheese
~All Creatures Great and Small
~The Color of Water
~The Screwtape Letters
~Washington Square
~My Antonia
~Jim the Boy

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