My Life As a Reader: Part 1

Since my son was born a little over six years ago, I’ve taken a strong interest in books for children, not just baby books or books you read to kids, but the books he’ll be reading himself when he gets there.

As a child, I read voraciously. I read all the books I was interested in from our school library by the third grade and attacked the science fiction section of my county library shortly thereafter. My mother turned me on to The Hobbit when the Rankin Bass cartoon came on TV when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, and I checked out the novel the very next day. I moved on to the Lord of the Rings trilogy shortly thereafter, though it took some later re-readings to really tease the most out of those books.

But when I started checking out fiction for kids in 2003, I discovered that there are nearly more good books for kids these days that even a committed bookworm such as my myself could have read!

The Harry Potter books, of course, are often cited as the beginning of the kid lit explosion (and I’ve read and enjoyed those), and that series has spawned numerous knockoffs (some good, some dreadful), but there are librariesful of good kids books out there.

As The Boy gets closer to being able to digest books longer and more difficult than Sammy the Seal, I’m going to read more and more of these great new kids books (and some older ones that I loved as a kid) to help him get started as the same sort of life-long reader his mom and I are. I plan (though my track record’s not awesome) to blog at least quick recommendations (or warnings) about the ones I read.

Books that I read as a child made such an indelible impression on who I am today, and I want to him have that same sort of relationship with books, too.

So, I’ll start with three books that I’ve re-read in recent years that influenced me as a youngster.

I’ve written about A Heart To the Hawks by Don Moser here before, but I wanted to mention it again in this context because it’s such a good book and means so much to me.

My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George is another nature-related book that has stuck with me. I’m sure I saw the Disney movie based on this book, but it’s the book itself that I remember the most. Every kid seems to harbor desires to run away from home, even if just for a little while. I spent a lot of time in the woods as a kid, and I always imagined myself as a kindred spirit of Sam Gribbley, even if I didn’t run away to the Catskills and survive an entire winter on my own.

Madeleine L’Engle’s popular children’s fantasy-science fiction classic A Wrinkle in Time inspired a life-long interest in science that — despite my lack of science degrees or ability to do complex equations — lives on today in my reading habits. The way it describes things like tesseracts and folding spacetime in a way that young children can understand and get excited about it just flat amazing.

I look forward to The Boy discovering wondrous things in books like these and others that he’ll discover as he embarks on his life as a reader.

Catching Up

It’s been a while, so I should update my status a bit:

  1. RPGs: Haven’t been roleplaying for the last few weeks due to sundry other commitments for members of the group. It’s been a nice break, but I’m anxious to get back to it and soon.
  2. Viewing: Just moments ago finished watching the first season of Deadwood. It’s one of the best shows on TV, right up there with Battlestar Galactica. It (like BSG) is a great example of what great stories can errupt when you throw a lot of characters that are full of conflict into a confined space and force them to confront their issues. To combine this item and the one just previous, I want to play some Dust Devils sometime soon. Deadwood also has two odd, almost competing effects on my speech. On the one hand, it strains mightily my efforts to rein in my pottymouth. On the other, it makes me want to talk (and blog) in a somewhat archaic and formal manner, which may permeate to some small extent this very post. Those of you who are fans of the show will most certainly know what I mean.
  3. Weather: We’re about to get our first round of heavy weather tomorrow. For those of you that don’t live in — or, rather, near as is more accurate — Tornado Alley, that might not mean much. Those of you that do know that anticipation of a big storm system is complex. Having never faced war, I’d liken it to anticipation of a battle, maybe a battle against a stumbling blind idiot god.
  4. Reading: Been re-reading a lot lately, actually, and enjoying the hell out of it. I’ve got a longer piece percolating about a handful of books with related themes that really shaped certain aspects of my personality. You’ll probably recognize just one of them, My Side of the Mountain by Jean Craighead George. It’s the only one of the three that’s still widely available in print. I just discovered last week that another one is now available from a boutique publisher in my very own state who is trying to revive the author’s list. I’m sending him some money (via the wonder of the Internets) today. I’ll report back at length when I’ve received and (re)read that one.
  5. Sickness and health: After a weekend of gastronomic debauchery, my digestive system rebelled. It was a painful twelve hours but I hope to have learnt my lesson. if nothing else, it’s gotten me back on the clean livin’ bandwagon. In partial effort toward that end, I’ve joined the Mr. Bento Fan Club, enjoying my first meal with his assistance just today. See my Flickr stream (linked hereabouts) for the details.
  6. Water: My primary means of recreating or hobbifying for the last ten years or so has been through flyfishing (and other outdoor activities like hiking and birding), mostly for warmwater species (especially smallmouth bass). The unfortunate downside to liking to chase the basses, though, means that there’s precious little to do during the winter (when about all you can catch on the fly is trout, which are plentiful herebouts but stocked, not native). However, the season usually kicks off in early March with a bang: the white bass spawning run. When the water temperature hits around 56F (the exact number is in question and the subject of much heated debate) they charge up out of the depths of the local Army Corps of Engineers impoundment (i.e., big-ass lake) and up the rivers that feed said big-ass lake. The run is on. I aim to do some fishing as soon as the big weather passes, as standing in a river waving a nine-foot length of graphite is generally discouraged when lightning is about.
  7. Family: The Boy is three years old now. It goes fast, folks. Make no mistake about that. Lots of friends and family in town and around this past weekend for the Birthday Party. Much fun was had by all, not the least of which The Boy, who slept in his new tent in his bedroom that night. He’s a funny kid. He’s currently visiting The Wife’s grandparents in the care of The Wife’s parents. He’s only been away for 30 hours, but I miss him like crazy. I can’t even begin to imagine sending him off to college.

I guess that’s about it. If there’s anything else of note, I’ll let you know.