4.17.2009

Still Reading

First, we're trying to make the all-important decision of a name for our girl. I know it's still months away, but I'd love to know your opinion on our two top choices. We all love both of them, although the boys are already referring to her as "Baby Jane" and "Janie." Take the poll in the sidebar. Please! And then maybe we'll be able to start agonizing over a middle name.

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My days and the week have gotten away from me...

Calvin has been home from school this whole week and it has gotten somewhat sunny and warm, so it's been a nice week. I'm tired, though. Really, really tired. So much so that there are moments that I feel like if I don't get some rest right NOW, things are going to get very ugly very fast. Or I just start crying. That kind of feeling usually doesn't happen until after the baby is born, so I'm a little concerned.

But then I do really dumb things like stay up way after all the kids are tucked in, chatting with David, watching a movie, or reading. It's just that I revel in the quiet, the lack of demands, the uninterrupted thought processes that can sometimes occur after everyone under six is finally snoozing.

So, even in my exhaustion, I have stayed ahead of my Spring Reading Thing goal. (See my sidebar for links and details.) Some of the books in my original list have now been tossed out because my brain just isn't holding on to things and because I have some other reading needs now, but still, I'm plugging away at some really wonderful reads. Here are my most recent:

The 13 Clocks by James Thurber. Lovers of alliteration, here is a tale just for you. It's actually a children's fairy tale, and because it was originally published in 1950, it has that wonderful nostalgic, non-PC flavor to it. The prose slips in and out of a poetic rhhythm, and some of the fairy tale aspects like the duke who murdered time and tears that turn into jewels that dissolve two weeks later are really intriguing. I liked it a lot and read it in about one and a half sittings. It was a little flowery for reading aloud to my boys, but it might really be fun for the 8-12 year old set.

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. I adored this book. It is not action packed, but the British humor and the pace at which the story trips along, cleverly commenting on the ways reading changes a person's life, is perfect. So many sweet vignettes that, while they happen to the Queen of England, are very representative of other women in less extravagant homes who are similarly overtaken by words and ideas and the desire to never be without a book. Also a very quick and entertaining read, it includes quite a lot to think about when One is not reading.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling. I know you all read this one ages ago, so there is not much to review here. But I would just like to say how much I like the things that Dumbledore shows Harry at the end of each of the first two books.

In the Sorcerer's Stone, he explains that love is more powerful than evil: "If there is one thing Voldemort doesn't understand, it is love...Love as powerful as your mother's was for you leaves its own mark...To have been loved so deeply, even though the person who loved us is gone, will give us some protection forever." (As a mom, I especially love that thought...)

And in the Chamber of Secrets, Dumbledore explains to Harry: "It is our choices that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities."

I think it's part of J.K. Rowling's genius that she can include these insights without coming across as moralistic or trite, and that her tale really does point to them without seeming contrived to do so. And don't tell me, but I hope that there are more of these in each of the next books.

The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. I started reading this with Henry while David was reading Boxcar Children with Calvin and then Calvin got wind of it and has now become my Read Together partner, following Despereaux into the dungeon, while Henry is with David reading story books. Although Henry is still very much interested in what is happening with Despereaux. I think this book is everything a read-aloud chapter book for young readers should be. The tale is written simply enough, but the characters have color and depth, the feeling of adventure is real, and the comments on love and courage and forgiveness are priceless. I couldn't stop reading it after the boys were in bed, so I finished it on my own instead of with the boys. (Incidentally, the chapters are each quite short, so there are very convenient stops for bedtime reading - a definite plus if you have children who cannot fathom stopping in the middle of a chapter, even if you've been reading for an hour already!)

Boys Adrift by Leonard Sax. If you have a son, you should read this book. It was recommended to me some time ago by a friend who said it presented some very compelling insights, but when I first picked it up, I was reluctant because of the word "epidemic" - I'm not a big fan of doomsdayers and naysayers and often find that these kind of perspectives are reinforced by schewed statistics to support a very anecdotal opinion.

Some of the ideas presented aren't rocket science (overdose on video games is highly detrimental), but the back-up information is empowering, and this book does indeed present what I think is a very accurate look at boys in school and the very real results of some of the practices in modern education that are undermining the potential of boys (and girls, for that matter.)

For one thing, boys and girls do not develop cognitively or physically in the same way or at the same time, and they are not motivated by the same incentives, even beginning from a very early age. Every child development expert knows this, but it is not reflected in the way education is attempted. At all. Among other things, if we can start trying to fit the system to the boys instead of trying to fit (medicate) the boys to the system, we would be amazed at the results.

The final chapter alone is a fabulous guide to raising boys today and helping them become real men. I can't stop thinking or talking about it (my poor husband!). And now I really want to read Sax's first book, Why Gender Matters. Because it really does, people.

Even if you are not inclined to read parenting books or child development studies or whatever, read this one.

6 comments:

Sir Nottaguy-Imadad said...

The best way to decide on a name is to go outside and holler it at the top of your lungs for 10 minutes. This is what it will sound like when (in the future) you are calling your child home from playing with friends with no response.

My absolute favorite writing of James Thurber is the short story "The Dog That Bit People". It is about his dog named Muggs, and it is hysterical.

Katrina @ Callapidder Days said...

I'm not "allowing" myself to buy or borrow any more books until the Spring Reading Thing is over, but I'm very intrigued by The 13 clocks and Boys Adrift...thinking I will have to pick both of those up at some point.

Good luck with name selection. We stink at that... we're happy with both of the ones we've chosen, but it was a rough experience both times. :)

NOBODY said...

I can't help you with the name thing. I like them both. Jane fits with the rest, but Elisabeth is classic and beautiful, and I love it written with an S. But it will be a life of nicknames or fighting nicknames with that name. My mom was good for it, and it worked, so maybe y'all are too. I don't think you can go wrong with either of those names.

And SirNottaGuy is right. And funny. That's how we settled on Bo's name. :)

Gabriela said...

I love Jane. We have a friend who spells it "Jayne" and I think that's so cool.

I am going to order that boy book. Like tonight.

Sara said...

Have you thought about using both of those names, one for the first name and the other for the middle? Elisabeth Jane sounds nice.

Otherwise, I vote Jane. It's prettier and more romantic.

Andrew and Linda said...

I kind of like Jane Elisabeth. But then, Elisabeth Jane is nice too... I'm partial to Elisabeth, Margaret is a Margaret Elizabeth (when she admits that her name isn't really sweetie pie).

Name choosing is HARD!!