Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Sherman Alexie's young adult novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, has been out and winning awards for several years now, but I just finally got around to reading it this week. On the one hand, I feel badly about that. I have loved Sherman Alexie's writing ever since reading The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (for my money, the best book title ever crafted) back in the early 1990s. I really should have gotten to this semi autobiographical book, his first for young adults, sooner. On the other hand, I'm glad I waited. It made several long waits I had this week go much more enjoyably, and it will be fresh in my head when the sequel, The Magic and Tragic Year of My Broken Thumb, soon comes out.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian tells the story of Arnold "Junior" Spirit, a Spokane Indian living on a reservation in Washington State. Arnold wants to be a cartoonist and escape the alcoholism, poverty, and hopelessness on the reservation. His first step is to leave the reservation high school and enroll at an all-white high school in a nearby farming town, joining the school's mascot as the only other Indian. Alexie, through Arnold's diary, broke my heart and made me laugh several times over in this fantastic book. Ellen Forney provides artwork in the form of Arnold's cartoons which add to the humor of the book. This is really a great one for teenagers.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
The kids have been doing plenty of reading lately, and we are all enjoying John D. Fitzgerald's The Great Brain as our nightly read aloud, but today I'm going to write about two adult books I've just finished. Somehow, when I type "adult book" it sounds funny to my ear, as if I'm writing about a smutty book purchased at an "adult bookstore." These two certainly aren't smut, but they aren't for kids either.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Max Quigley is a sixth grader at an elementary school in Australia. James Roy had me at the first use of "Mum," and kept me with his "cheeky," "mate," "posh," and "crosses." I think I clapped my hands when he referred to a school field trip as an "excursion." Back to Max. He's a bully even though he rationalizes that he isn't because "Bullies wait behind lunch sheds and steal kids' Twinkies. I've never stolen anything in my life. Bullies beat people up. I've never actually punched anyone in my entire life." Nevertheless, Max is a bully and his parents are at the end of their rope when he turns his attention on an extremely shy and awkward classmate named Triffin Nordstrom, "Nerdstrom" to Max. When the boys' parents arrange that Triffin will tutor Max and Max will spend time playing with Triffin on the weekends, it is interesting and funny to watch Max take baby steps towards compassion and reformation. The ending reminds me a great deal of the film version of Nick Hornby's About A Boy when Hugh Grant's (rather cheeky)character accompanies the very awkward Simon onstage at a school talent show to sing "Killing Me Softly."
I'm sure my ten year old son will enjoy Max Quigley: Technically Not a Bully as it is a good choice for third through sixth grade readers.
Monday, May 18, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
but Little Golden books about them seemed a bit babyish. I bet that book could turn a nice little profit on ebay today. The 70s and how I spent them have been much on my mind since I passed an idyllic afternoon with my daughter on Saturday. The boys in our family were out and she asked me if I wanted to play a computer game with her. I did, and it was fun, but after a bit I mentioned that we didn't have a computer in the house when I was her age. What did you do with yourself, she wondered. Of course there were books, I told her, and records (like Donny and Shawn's) to play, but it was so beautiful outside, I decided to show her how I spent much of the 1970s al fresco. We jumped rope- "C my name is Christine and my boyfriend's name is Carl, we come from Chicago and we like candy."
We hula hooped. We prepared for careers as hula hooping waitresses.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Friday evening after dinner, I played wiffle ball in the front yard with my three children. It was a warm night with lots of laughter and we had about an hour of fun until the mosquitoes really got busy and drove us inside. I was the pitcher the entire time. My sons noticed that my cheering gets louder and more enthusiastic when my daughter is at bat than when they are. They weren't complaining, just observing, and sweetly followed my lead of "atta girl" and exhorting her to "show 'em where you live," "show that ball who's boss," and from my six year old "whack the dingleberries out of it!" God forgive me, but dingleberry is his new favorite word. When my boys are at the plate, I tend only to comment on their extraordinary hits. Why the discrepancy, I've wondered all weekend long. Perhaps because my sons don't need my encouragement to swing like there's no tomorrow. They do everything like there's no tomorrow. They'd rather swing hard and miss than just stand there. My daughter waits for the perfect pitch and even then is nice to the ball. She doesn't really whack it. She's a girl who always lets others go first and when she's interrupted says "never mind" or "it's not important" about her ideas. I don't want that for her. I want her to fight for what she wants, to attack life, to never back down or bow out. I'm filled with guilt that I may have taught her to discount herself by the fact of my stay-at-home momhood. I've been at home full time for her entire life and I worry about it. I worry that she hasn't heard me tell tales of daily struggles and triumphs in the workplace. I worry that the only financial contribution she sees me make to the family is writing out the checks to pay our bills and clipping coupons. Even when I remind myself that staying at home allowed me to take her to years of speech therapy and her baby brother to physical therapy for the first eighteen months of his life, to volunteer scores of hours in her class, to chaperone dozens of field trips, to be the one who cared for her when she was sick, clapped for her during school performances, and help with homework, still I worry. So you would think that Dr. Laura Sclessinger's latest book, In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms would make me feel better, but it doesn't. Probably because I'm inclined to dislike Dr. Laura. She insists that mothers should stay at home full time for the sake of their children and that in the first three years of life the best caretaker of a baby is the body it came out of and the breast it sucked at. That is a not too loose paraphrase. When asked in a recent Wall Street Journal interview at what point she advises mothers to go back to work, Dr. Laura said, "The answer is never." Yikes! She feels mothers should be home whenever their kids are. I don't buy that. In fact, I think the experience I had of babysitting my younger sister on afternoons when my own mom was at work helped make me a good parent. Not a good stay-at-home parent, just a good parent. There's so much to be gained from the example of a working mom as well. I feel much better about having recently read Emma Gilbey Keller's The Comeback. In it she presents seven stories of women who went from career to stay at home parenting and back to their careers. This book was encouraging because I also worry that nobody will want to hire me after all these years home. ( Clearly, I'm a worrier. Don't get me started on children choking, driving on icy roads, thin ice, insufficient sunscreen application, and head injuries!) The Comeback is interesting in that these seven women, and actually the author herself, had very different situations, and all were able to go back to satisfying careers after years at home with the kids. It eases fears about on ramps and off ramps and becoming obsolete. I had quite a bit to obsess over this Mother's Day weekend, but I'm glad it ended on a high note with The Comeback.
Friday, May 8, 2009
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Ever since I was pregnant with my oldest child more than ten years ago, I've been giving Mem Fox's Time for Bed as a gift to new and expectant parents. It is perfect bedtime reading for little ones. My kids all know its peaceful, loving rhymes by heart. One of my favorite gifts for toddlers is Helen Oxenbury's We're Going on a Bear Hunt. My six year old still frequently asks me to "do" it with him at bedtime. It is a fun onomatopoeia filled read aloud. So of course I had high hopes for the Mem Fox/Helen Oxenbury collaboration, Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes. It's a good thing two good friends just had babies and two more are expecting soon. Let's just say I've purchased a few copies lately. I'm in love with this book and the illustrations of roly poly squishy adorable babies and their precious fat little fingers and toes. The babies come from different backgrounds, but they all, "as everyone knows had ten little fingers and ten little toes." I feel I must offer to babysit some one's baby soon so I can read this one aloud to its intended audience.