August 7, 2011 @ 6:56 pm | Filed under: Books
As usual, I couldn’t decide, so now I’m reading three books at once. Blackout, Brideshead Revisited, and The Riddle-Master of Hed. This is a ridiculous way to read a book, of course. I often have two or three going at once, more if you count read-alouds to the children, but most of the time only one of my two or three is a novel. The others will be nonfiction, which I like in bursts. Both Blackout and Riddle-Master are terribly gripping, the sort of book that makes me wish for a nice miserable virus that would land me in bed for a day or two with nothing to do but, say, cough and read. Alas, here I am in tiptop form. (And tempting fate, probably.)
Which book I pick up has mostly to do with what time of day it is. Riddle-Master is a library book, the whole trilogy in one fat tome with perilously small print, not at all convenient for reading in bed. So it’s my daytime read, and Blackout, which I have on Kindle and phone, is my nighttime choice. As for Brideshead, I haven’t got far yet; he’s just beginning to remember, is just setting out in the car with his devil-may-care friend, and it has exactly the English country manor vibe I was craving. Oh, for a good flu…
(Dear Fate: JUST KIDDING!)
I read The Riddle-Master of Hed in junior high, and strangely, all I remembered about it was one tiny sliver: the riddle about the High One’s harpist, Deth, visiting the inhospitable man who has been told he will die if his next visitor does not tell him his name. The terrified man opens the door to the harpist and begs him, repeatedly, desperately, to say what his name is, but all the visitor will say is (so he hears), “Death.” This frightens the man so much that his heart stops. I’ve thought of that bit often over the years, but I couldn’t have told you a single other thing about the story—and right now it’s as if I’m reading it for the first time. In fact, I began to wonder if the Deth-riddle wasn’t perhaps from one of the other books in the trilogy; had I missed the first? But then I came to that bit, a quiet paragraph in a tense moment, so I guess I did read the book and have well and truly forgotten the plot: a thing that almost never happens.
It’s funny; I’m always saying I wish I could read such-and-such a book for the first time all over again, and now I’m really getting to.
Things I noticed the kids reading yesterday:
Jane—Fabre’s Book of Insects. Classic living book of essays about, surprise, insects. Jean Henri Fabre wrote a number of excellent books on insects and animals. Here are some you can peek at at Google Books.
Rose—Ace, the Very Important Pig. A chuckler by one of her favorite authors, Dick King-Smith. (He also wrote Babe. Matter of fact, Ace is Babe’s great-grandpiglet.)
Beanie—Stephen Kellogg’s Johnny Appleseed. Delightful art, and who doesn’t love this story? Stephen Kellogg’s art can be quite busy, which in my experience tends to overwhelm very young children (three or four years old) but is captivating for six- and seven-year-olds.
August 14, 2008 @ 6:33 am | Filed under: Art
A few remarks on things we’ve read or are reading around here…
What Makes a Raphael a Raphael by Richard Muhlberger. About ten years ago, I heard that the What Makes a… series was going out of print and I snapped up the five titles I could find. I think they’ve since been reissued with new covers, so they’re not all lost and gone as I feared they would be. But I’m glad I made the purchase way back then. We love these books. They are slim paperbacks will full-color reproductions of paintings, many paintings, by the artist in question. The text is readable and engaging and in addition to providing biographical information about the artist, Muhlberger spends a lot of time taking close looks at individual paintings, discussing materials, technique, composition, and historical context in clear and vivid language. Beanie, my current seven-year-old, listens raptly. We pulled the Raphael book off the shelf on a whim a week or two ago, and several mornings have found the two of us poring over the details of one of the paintings in this book. Beanie will linger over the volume long after the little ones have called me away. Jane, overhearing scraps of our discussion, was herself drawn in and has been taking her own turn puzzling out the symbols Raphael uses to identify certain saints in his religious artwork.
The St. George painting made us think, of course, of Margaret Hodges’s classic picture book, St. George and the Dragon. May I just say (for the thousandth time) how much I adore Trina Schart Hyman‘s work? We have an edition of Peter Pan which she illustrated, and Rose has read it to tatters—but we can’t part with it, taped up and raggedy as it is. Rose says that no one else draws the Lost Boys properly. I understand exactly how she feels, because as long as I live, there will be only one edition of The Secret Garden for me, and that’s the one illustrated by Tasha Tudor.
At the orthodontist’s office yesterday, Rose and Bean were asked to fill out questionaires about their favorite things and special talents. (I could write a whole post about those questionaires: good grief.) Rose was somewhat tortured by the small blank asking for her favorite book (“It’s impossible, Mom!”) and finally came to a compromise between space and reality by squeezing in Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. It pained her, though, to abridge the title of the latter in that fashion. Every true fan knows it’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Rose has not encountered many fill-in-the-blank experiences in her life, and she was not impressed by this one.
I can’t begin to keep up with Jane’s reading lists anymore. I make mental notes of the piles I see on end tables and bedsides around the house. Lately there’s a lot of James Herriot and Rick Riordan. Right here beside me on the sofa is Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy, which Scott, Jane, and Rose have all enjoyed, but I haven’t read yet myself. Rose keeps going back to Gail Carson Levine’s Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg, which came by surprise from Uncle Jay last week and was jubilantly celebrated by all three girls. It had been a library favorite for months. We have a number of Levine’s earlier fairy tale books because Gail and I used to have the same editor at HarperCollins, and Alix kept me well supplied with Gail’s latest. Ah, those were the days.
I’m reading Understood Betsy to Rose and Beanie: one of our family’s favorite read-alouds ever. Beanie was about Rilla’s age the last time we enjoyed this book aloud. She doesn’t remember it at all, of course, and so I get the fun all over again of hearing the chuckles and giggles in all the right places. The first time I read this book aloud, Jane was about five years old. Scott was working at home in those days, writing, and I remember how he came out of his office for a cup of coffee and got sucked into the story, and that was the end of his work session for that day. After that I was adjured to save the read-aloud time for when he could join us. (The same thing happened with By the Great Horn Spoon years later.)
At bedtime, Scott is reading Watership Down to the younger girls for the second time in…a year? Two years? Doesn’t matter how long (or short) a time ago it was: it was time again. All three decreed it.
This may explain why Beanie came staggering out from bed yesterday morning and said, “Mommy, I just had the most realistic dream. We were all rabbits…”