Sunday, March 15, 2009

Happy Birthday, Andrew!

Today is the Ides of March (Beware!) and my older brother Andrew's birthday. I owe some of the best reading of my life to Andrew. I admired him so much when we were young (still do) that if he read a book, you could bet I'd be reading it the minute he put it down. It's funny, when I close my eyes and picture him in our childhood, the image is not one of a kid with a book in his hands. Rather, I see a scrappy blond kid playing baseball or soccer, swimming, riding his bike, or tearing through the house at full speed. Whether I'm picturing five year old Andrew or fifteen year old Andrew, he's laughing, sweating, and in motion. However, I know he was a voracious reader and I tried to read every single book he read. There's one exception to that. He read and reread Johnny Bench's biography I don't know how many times when we were growing up. It seemed always to be lying around the house. That book held no appeal for me.

But thanks to Andrew, I met the Hardy Boys and Hans Brinker. I went Where the Red Fern Grows and imagined living on My Side of the Mountain. I loved My Side of the Mountain but knew, even as a child reading it, that I would have been miserable and never survived on the mountain. I think, on the other hand, it sparked Andrew's imagination, and he pictured himself surviving, even thriving, in the wild. It had that same effect on my own boy who was captivated by it when he read it last year. And, thanks to Andrew, I read one of the best series of my youth, John D. Fitzgerald's Great Brain books. Oh, how I adored The Great Brain. For that, I am forever in his debt. Those books gave me hours and hours of enjoyment.

I am looking forward to my own kids meeting The Great Brain, TD, and Sweyn, and reliving their adventures. Every once in awhile, I read a book with my kids and think how much the eight or ten or twelve year old Andrew would have loved it. Eoin Colfer's Half Moon Investigations being a perfect example. It combines humor,mystery, plot twists, and adventures he would have relished. The first time I read one of Jon Scieszka's Time Warp Trio books, I physically felt sad that it hadn't existed in 1977, because boy, was there a kid I knew who would have enjoyed it.

When my sons and daughter picture their Uncle Andrew, the image is not of a man sitting in an armchair reading a book. No, I'm sure what they conjure in their minds' eyes is a guy hosting legendary family parties, telling stories, shooting off fireworks, allowing them to help him use (God help us) his chainsaw, wrestling with them, teaching them to shoot a BB gun, cheering at their games, and more. But still, thanks to him, they've got some great books on their shelves because he is a reader and always has been, and he's been a huge influence on my taste in literature.


AndrewMichael said...

Best entry so far. Other books I read and re-read many times were "Frederick Douglass Fights for Freedom" and the biography of George Washington Carver.

Anonymous said...

Christine....your dad sent my dad the link to this blog and when I read it I thought back my fond members of the Great Brain...I just ordered used copies online for my girls...I LOVE that you have a book blog...I fear that we may need to move soon as books have overtaken our to you and your family and many thanks for this fond memory...Kelly McN

Christine said...

Kelly...So nice to hear from you!!!! I hope you guys are well and enjoy The Great Brain! Isn't it wonderful to revisit old favorites with your kids?

terrymhp said...

Dear Christine: Thank you so much for taking the trouble to create this blog. I've always been a reader and want to develop a love of books in my boys, who are 9 and almost 7. We can see the ends of the Animorph and Droon series approaching at a rapid pace; your site gave me some new ideas to try. Thanks again!

Terry P