Reading Notes: May 2009

May 28, 2009 @ 6:42 pm | Filed under:

So what happened to my reading this month is Harvest Moon.

I often get letters from people wondering how I manage to read so much. I think my typical response to this question tends to be weak on substance because I don’t really know what I’d be doing with the bits of the day during which reading happens, if reading weren’t happening. Cleaning closets, perhaps? I’m pretty sure that’s how I used to explain it: our closets are very untidy, because I read a lot of books.

But now I can speak more definitively, and it turns out it isn’t about the closets after all. At least, not solely about the closets. I finished only a single book during the first three weeks of May, and my closets are no spicker than they’ve ever been, nor are they span. It turns out the answer to “How do you find the time to read all those books?” was “Because we don’t have Harvest Moon for the Wii.”

Because now we do have Harvest Moon for the Wii, and I’ve only read 1.9 books this month.

I don’t know if the .9 is completely accurate. This weekend I finished two books I began in April: George and Sam by Charlotte Moore and Gilead by Marilynne Robinson. I’m estimating I had about a fifth of each left to read when the calendar turned to May, and I’ve also read half of Nick Hornby’s Shakespeare Wrote for Money. So that’s .2 + .2 + .5 = .9. Am I doing that right? Jane’s my personal calculator and she’s not in the room at the moment.

Anyway, the point is that my reading slowed way down this month because I had a lot of farming chores to tend to. I have a stable full of livestock, you see, not to mention two large fields’ worth of crops to weed and water. It’s astonishing how much I get done in a day: feeding the stock, collecting eggs (duck, chicken, and ostrich), milking the cow and goats, shearing my sheep, turning her wool and the silkworm’s cocoon into yarn and dyeing those with herbs or flowers, harvesting my wildly varied crops (everything from rice to cocoa beans to honeydew melons to eggplant), catching fish to feed to the wild turtle I’m trying to lure home, mining for ore with which to upgrade my tools, pulverizing rocks with single blows of my hammer, chopping down trees, and foraging the fields, forests, and beaches for foodstuffs to eat or sell.

Really, when you consider all that, it’s a wonder I managed to read any books at all this month.


I wrote the above on Monday afternoon. Then I finished the Hornby book and read Karen Edmisten’s book (reread, really, since I’d been blessed with a sneak peek many moons ago), and hey, suddenly I’m up to five books! Fairly reshpeckabiggle, if you overlook the cheating. (Gilead really belongs to April.)

George and Sam is percolating into its own post; it’s a book about autism, an important one, I think. The author, Charlotte Moore, is the mother of George and Sam and another son named Jake. George and Sam both have autism. Moore is a keen observer who kept a detailed journal of her boys’ early childhood, long before either of them was diagnosed, and her loving, intelligent, unflinching account of life with two extremely atypical children is at once moving and edifying. As I said, more later.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows—well, you’ll know what I thought about this book when I tell you that immediately after I finished reading it (a library copy), I bought a copy to keep. It’s perfectly delightful, a novel told in letters—a device that seldom works to sustain a really rich narrative, but does work, wonderfully, in this case. It seems everyone is reading it these days, so I suppose I needn’t bother with a summary. It would be worth reading for the interesting history alone; I knew next to nothing about the German occupation of Guernsey during World War II and was fascinated to learn about what the islanders went through during those long, difficult years. Then there’s the marvelous cast of characters, a crowd of quirky, independent folks you want for your own neighbors. And some mystery, some romance…I’ve half a mind to go read it again, right this minute. Except I can’t, because my cocoa beans need harvesting.

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24 Reponses | Comments Feed
  1. Mamalion says:

    I confess, I love the Guernsey L&PPPS book! I found it last November on a trip to London, when my stepmom unfortunately passed away. It was wonderfully engaging, and ‘light’ reading for all the sadness around me. Fascinating history also! Now I guess I need to investigate Harvest Moon for the Wii.

  2. Melissa Taylor says:

    Like you, I LOVED Gurnsey and was sad to see it end. I may reread it sooner than later. The story and writing just enchanted me.

    Thanks for the post. I’m going to look for George and Sam this week.


  3. Melissa Wiley says:

    Caveat about Harvest Moon: there’s a “Harvest Goddess” part of the storyline that might bother some. We lump it in with Greek myths, fairy tales, etc. My kids have been more focused on the farming & courtship aspects & haven’t gotten far on the quest (harvest goddess) part.

  4. Sarah N. says:

    I’ve moved both Guernsey and George and Sam up on my TBR list. Right now I’m reading Where the Wild Things Were by William Stolzenberg. It deals with the loss of large predators in animal habitats and the devastating loss of biodiversity caused by escalating numbers of smaller predators and herbivores. It’s captured my attention much the way Fruitless Fall did yours. I think you and Jane would both find it fascinating.
    Harvest Moon sounds great. We don’t have a Wii but I can sense the inevitability of us getting one 🙂

  5. Jennifer says:

    We have a John Deer farming game for our computer and it sucks me in for weeks at a time each year. Eventually I get sick of it and will pick it up again another year. Love it though! I would love to have a farm.

  6. Beth says:

    I don’t understand the Wii. I just … don’t. *befuddled*

    I’ve been wanting to read George and Sam — thanks for reminding me.

  7. Melissa Wiley says:

    Beth, our Wii was a present—a baby gift from an amazing friend, believe it or not—and I love it. I really love it. Scott and I (and sometimes the kids) use Wii Fit to exercise, and the whole family will play Mario Kart together (three at a time)—a total hoot, racing each other and shouting when our cars go off the track. Wii Sport is fun that way too.

    I love board games, LOVE them, but it’s been some years since we had satisfying board game time on a regular basis (except for periodic Catan marathons)—my little ones are always grabbing at the pieces and getting sad because the big ones get (understandably) annoyed with them for messing up the game. So I’m relishing the return to family game time the Wii has given us.

    I bought Mario Kart about a month ago because (in part) Beanie had come to me with sorrow over Rose getting “too big,” growing out of some of their best games. Car races seemed like something they might both enjoy together. 🙂

    A thing that’s neat about Harvest Moon is how much casual yet quite sophisticated math it’s got my kids doing! Cost analysis stuff like “If a cow costs X much but won’t start producing milk for 28 days, and a goat costs Y and produces after 14 days, and goat milk brings Z gold pieces and cow milk brings Q gold, what’s the better deal?” Or: if you pay X amount for a butter maker, and butter earns Y much more than plain milk, how many days will it take for the butter maker to pay for itself? I have one child who, if you were to ask her “what’s 12 x 6?” would likely get a panicky look and say “I don’t know! I don’t know!” because she hates to be put on the spot—the other day I heard her say softly to herself as she played, “6 bags of seed at 120 gold apiece, that’s 720 gold. Good, I have enough.” 🙂

  8. Yvonne says:

    Oh Melissa, we have the same problem with board games and our 6 children. Once a week or so my husband, the braver parent, plays Trouble with the Age 5 and up children–for some reason it works, maybe because of the cool dice-pop-thingy. Our 3.5 yo will participate sometimes when his attention span allows it.

    Operation works too–the little ones think they win when they hear the buzz– and even though it is not a game, our marble run becomes a family game with the children racing their marbles from the top to the bottom. We have a set of “alternative” marbles–cork, magnet, plastic, etc–which really add to the excitement because their speed differs greatly from the glass marbles.

    I, too, wondered about the Wii; but Melissa your description of a “return to family game time” is probably the best review I’ve heard and the best reason I can think of to purchase one. And Harvest Moon sounds like something my whole family would adore.

  9. Lisa says:

    I loved Gurnsey and posted my reading notes on it here
    I’ll be looking for the others, too. Yours is one of the reader blogs I usually agree with the choices! And, it sounds like we have another reason in favor of buying the Wii!!!!

  10. Kelly says:

    I’ve been Wii-resistant, but I love your take on board games (I love them too) and how it can bring game-time back to the family. I have a little one (15 mos) and I’m already sorely missing board game time!

  11. Heather Lewis says:

    We got Harvest Moon when it first came out. I made fun of my boys for playing it. But, it’s given us lots of discussions on courtship.

    Honestly I have had the hardest time getting married. I’ve had to stop playing because I’m so annoyed that no one wants me.

  12. Melissa Wiley says:

    Do you have the Wii version? I haven’t tried the others (Nintendo DS, etc), but in the Wii edition you have to get the character’s heart points up high enough by talking to him every day, or giving the gifts he likes best (you can tell his favorites by his responses). And you also trigger courtship events by talking to them before 10am on sunny days. (LOL!!)

  13. Hannah says:

    Ohhh, we have been on the fence for a long time, worrying that it might suck in our 8 y.o.. boy too much, as we already have to limit his computer time (or he gets addicted and grumpy). But you are pushing me over!
    Still, I will forever remain impressed by your ability to do things (read, play the Wii) with six children to tend to!

  14. Hannah says:

    (About buying a Wii, I meant.)

  15. Mamalion says:

    If I can chime in here about the Wii- I too resisted it, until my aunt passed away, and wonder of wonders, she had one! My sis said with our 6 kids we needed it, so we have one. And, as a screen-limiting mom , I will let them play Wii Fit, (I even work out with it!) and Great Outdoors, and it has saved my sanity on cold, rainy winter days. It’s also a great motivator to get stuff done, and they can earn Wii time. I’m thinking of going to a 1/2 hour token system for time.

    So all that to say, if you get one given to you, don’t turn it down too quickly. It does have redeeming value IMHO. I’m not sure I’d run out and buy one, ’cause it’s definitely not a cheap proposition. I guess I’m going to check out Harvest Moon!

  16. Mamalion says:

    So could I make a request for a separate post about favorite Wii games that 1) promote family time, or 2) are good for aging Mamas of Many Children, who have limited brain power and time?

    I’d love to have some tried-and-true suggestions for games that I’d actually like to play!

  17. Yvonne says:

    And P.S., you have to get to the 2nd Benedict Society book–I’m dying to know what your take on it will be (as well as your readers). I’m so looking forward to the discussion…

  18. Beth says:

    This is only serving to remind me of just how culturally illiterate I am.

    Is it pronounced ‘why’ or ‘we’?

    And what is it? A computer-tv-remote sensor … thingymabob that you … erm … interact with?

    *clutches head*

    I didn’t even have a computer until six years ago, and I don’t have a television (I watch ‘Lost’ on the computer). Ah, well.

  19. Melissa Wiley says:

    Beth, I’m going to take Mamalion’s advice and write a whole Wii post, since there’s been so much interest in it here in the comments. But re your questions:

    It’s pronounced “we.” You create avatars for use in some games, and those are called “Miis.” (Singular, Mii, sounds like “me.”) That was the first big chunk of fun we had with it—creating our own Miis that look like each member of our family. You can even send your Miis to other people, if you (and they) have the Wii hooked up to a wireless network. This is enormously fun because in some of the games, like Sport and Fit, other players or spectators will be the Miis you’ve created or the ones your friends have sent you. My girls go wild when our friend Kristen appears on a baseball team, for example.

    OK, so the gaming system is called Wii, and it’s a small box you plug into your television. The games look like CD-roms or DVDs. The Wii comes with a controller thingie which is just called a remote. There are also attachments you can add to the main remote, like for Mario Kart you stick the remote (a slender rectangle) into a plastic steering wheel. The Wii remote works differently than other types of game controllers; it has cool motion-sensing technology that tracks what position it’s in—so that you can play games like bowling, baseball, and tennis by mimicking the movements you’d make in real life. Picture two people standing in a living room swinging remotes like tennis rackets. (There’s a wrist strap to keep you from hurling the remote at your television.)

    It’s super super fun. Scott wanted me to be sure to put in that our kids enjoy watching the two of us race in Mario Kart as much as they like playing it themselves! This has become one of our favorite ways to wind up a day. 🙂

  20. Beth says:

    Lissa, thank you so much for explaining! I feel much less dim now. I had no idea. I was thinking that I don’t actually know anyone who has one but maybe I just don’t know that they do. Huh.

  21. Laurie M says:

    i’ve been trying to decide between animal crossing & harvest moon. do you have ac?

    how do we link our wii characters over the internet? If you want to.

  22. Melissa Wiley says:

    We don’t have Animal Crossing. I think we’ve got it on request at the Library but there are always about 80 people ahead in line for games there. Beck (Frog and Toad) has that one and really likes it.

    We have to swap Wii numbers to exchange Miis. I’ll email you! 🙂

  23. Julia S. says:

    I jumped over to this post from you year end book round up and was reading about your Wii and boardgames. I got the “Family Game Night” Wii game which has a lot of the classic board games (Sorry, Yahtzee, Battleship, Boggle, and something else I think I can’t remember) just because we have lots of littles who like to grab game pieces and it sort of spoils the fun (I missed the board games too).
    The games can be played the classic way or with some Wii enhancements. I prefer the classic versions, but my kids like both.

    Just thought you’d like to know.