Sunday, July 26, 2009

SUMMER MAKE BELIEVE

"
We'll talk of sunshine and of song,
And summer days, when we were young;
Sweet childish days, that were as long
As twenty days are now." --Wordsworth


Sure, these are kids books, but I like reading them, particularly in the summer, when the time is going so fast. That's when you can use a book that goes fast also -- one that you can start and finish on the same day.

In 2007, I read, for the first time, two of many by Zilpha Keatlety Snyder:

THE EGYPT GAME All you have to do is look at the picture on the cover (kind of like the photo above!) to know that this book is going to be fun: great kids, great themes, great costumes!

THE VELVET ROOM Slip-covers made from moon fabric -- how lyrical is that:

"That night Robin decided to go to bed early so morning would come more quickly, but it was hard to get to sleep. It was a bright moonlit night, and it stayed warm much later than usual. . . . After a while she gave up trying to go to sleep and pulled her cot over against the window. Everything was strangely beautiful. The dusty yard with its pile of auto parts looked different. And the rest of the Village, too, seemed less ugly and makeshift. It was as if the whole world had been slip-covered in the strange, soft fabric of moonlight. Robin had never liked nighttime much. She wasn't too brave about the dark, and then, too, things had a way of growing from bad to worse if you thought about them in the night. But suddenly she saw things quite differently. How wonderful it was that day ended -- that there would always be hours that were soft and secret and dim to hide things for a while from the hard brightness of day. She sat and watched until it was quite late; then a cool breeze began to blow in through the open window, and she went to sleep" (THE VELVET ROOM, 74).


And a mere two of the many terrific novels by E. L. Konigsburg:

THE OUTCASTS OF 19 SCHUYLER PLACE Some reviews call OUTCASTS a follow - up to SILENT, but really it's a pre-quel, and you should read OUTCASTS first, even though it was written second. The shero is twelve - year - old Margaret Rose (see the rose on the cover of the book?), whose eccentric, loving uncles teach her to stand up for herself and to love old houses. Her little half brother Connor is born at the close of the story.

SILENT TO THE BONE You'll love what Margaret Rose has done with the house on Schulyer Place. And you'll admire the way she helps Connor, now a teen-ager, when life goes wrong.


Plus, two long ago favorites by Franklyn E. Meyer:

ME AND CALEB & ME AND CALEB AGAIN As youngsters, my brother and I read these books many times, especially the first one. Who wouldn't want to spend the summer getting into lots of trouble with Bud & Caleb? After all, they lived somewhere in the Missouri Ozarks, not far from us, so maybe we could visit! I looked everywhere for these books in the 90s, hoping to read them aloud to my kids, only to discover that the titles were out of print. In 2006, they reappeared at long last and are just as good as I remember!


Finally:

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS (#7) Everyone read this in Summer 2007, right? Well, now it's time to re-read. But first, re-read ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (#5) & THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE (#6). Come on, it won't take all that long!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

My Favorite American Historians

ALL-AMERICAN BOYS: FOURTH OF JULY, 1996

BLAND AMBITION: FROM ADAMS TO QUAYLE -- THE CRANKS, CRIMINALS, TAX CHEATS, AND GOLFERS WHO MADE IT TO VICE PRESIDENT

ALMOST AMERICA: FROM THE COLONISTS TO CLINTON: A "WHAT IF" HISTORY OF THE U.S.


Both by Steve Tally

You know all those books that are supposed to be more fun, fair, lively, and wise than your high school history book? Well, I've tried a number of those, and they all make me feel just like I did in history class: drowsy! But not Steve Tally's books! I stay wide awake for these and read out all the jokes to whoever will listen because they are just too entertaining to keep to myself.

As soon as I finished Bland Ambition (well, maybe even before I was done), I ordered five additional copies to give as Christmas presents. Yes, I enjoyed it that much, and felt sure my friends and family would too. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for a new edition that will include Tally's thoughts on Gore, Cheney, Biden and near - miss Palin.

My favorite chapter in Almost America is the one on The Articles of Confederation. What if States' Rights took precedence over the Union? Surprise! The "what if" scenario is a description of what really did happen during the Civil War, the most comprehensible explanation I've ever read.


TAKE THE CANNOLI (part memoir, about growing up in the Midwest: Oklahoma, Montana, then Chicago; part American History, tons of wit)
PARTLY CLOUDY PATRIOT (how to love the United States of America, even when you're feeling sad and worried)
ASSASSINATION VACATION (about Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley)
THE WORDY SHIPMATES (Pilgrims & Puritans)

All four by Sarah Vowell, all excellent. I've never loved American History so much! Between Steve Tally and Sarah Vowell, I've learned more American History than I ever did in grade school, high school, and college put together.