Category Archives: reading

Three Books at Once

No, this isn’t some kind of multiple-book book review.  This is an ungodly silly claim that I can actually read three books at once.  Silly, but true.

Now I don’t claim to be a three-armed mutant with six eyes or anything.  And I am relatively sure I only have one brain.  But, remember, I was a school teacher who could successfully maintain a lesson thread through discussions that were supposed to be about a story by Mark Twain, but ventured off to the left into whether or not donuts were really invented by a guy who piloted a ship and stuck his pastries on the handles of the ships’ wheel, thus making the first donut holes, and then got briefly lost in the woods of a discussion about whether or not there were pirates on the Mississippi River, and who Jean Lafitte really was, and why he was not the barefoot pirate who stole Cap’n Crunch’s cereal, but finally got to the point of what the story was really trying to say.  (How’s that for mastery of the compound sentence?)  (Oh, so you could better?  Really?  You were in my class once, weren’t you.)  I am quite capable of tracking more than one plot at the same time.  And I am not slavishly devoted to finishing one book before I pick up the next.

I like reading things the way I eat a Sunday dinner… a little meatloaf is followed by a fork-full of mashed potatoes, then back to meat, and some green peas after that…  until the whole plate is clean.

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson is the meatloaf.  I have read it before, just as I have probably had more meatloaf in my Iowegian/Texican  lifetime than any other meat dish.  It’s pretty much a middle-America thing.  And Treasure Island is the second book I ever read.  So you can understand how easy a re-read would be.  I am reading it mostly while I am sitting in the high school parking lot waiting to pick up the Princess after school is out.

fbofw1Lynn Johnston’s For Better or Worse is also an old friend.  I used to read it in the newspaper practically every day.  I watched those kids grow up and have adventures almost as if they were members of my own family.  So the mashed potatoes part of the meal is easy to digest too.

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So that brings me to the green peas.  Green peas are good for you.  They are filled with niacin and folic acid and other green stuff that makes you healthier, even though when the green peas get mashed a bit and mix together with the potatoes, they look like boogers, and when you are a kid, you really can’t be sure.  Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter wrote this book The Long War together.  And while I love everything Terry Pratchett does, including the book he wrote with Neil Gaiman, I am having a hard time getting into this one.  Parts of it seem disjointed and hard to follow, at least at the beginning.  It takes work to choke down some of it.  Peas and potatoes and boogers, you know.

But this isn’t the first time I have ever read multiple books at the same time.  In fact, I don’t remember the last time I finished a book and the next one wasn’t at least halfway finished too.  So it can be done.  Even by sane people.

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Filed under book review, comic strips, education, goofy thoughts, humor, old books, philosophy, reading

For the Love of Reading!

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Yes, I know it looks awkwardly painful to read on the floor in a scroochy position like that, but that was me as a kid.  I was the awkwardest nerd in Wright County, Iowa, when I was a boy.  But Dr. Seuss taught me early on to read and enjoy the imaginary worlds that reading created in my stupid little head.

I don’t remember the first actual book I read, other than to firmly believe it was a Dr. Seuss book like Yertle the Turtle, or Horton Hears a Who!  But I do remember the first chapter book, the first great adventure.  It was The White Stag by Kate Seredy.  It was the Newberry Medal winner published in 1937, and told the mythical journey of Hunor and Magyar, two brothers and leaders of two peoples who are on an epic quest to find the land where they belong by following a magical white stag.

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I was nine when I read and fell in love with that book.  I picked it off Miss Mennenga’s reading shelf because it was a simple red book with a plain red cover (the paper illustrated book cover had long since disintegrated in kids’ hands over time.)  Red was my favorite color.

But I fell in love with the movie version that unfolded in my mind’s eye.  It was when I learned to dive so deeply into a  book that the characters became real to me.

The following year when I was ten the book was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson.  Jim Hawkins was my best friend that year.  That was followed by Rudyard Kipling’s First Jungle Book.  I walked around the jungle with Mowgli and Bagheera the black panther for quite a while after that.

I think it is important to often look back on the beginnings of things.  This is the story of how I became a reader for life.  And it matters now that I am furiously trying to cram in more books of all sorts before the end.  The journey nears completion, and it helps to focus on what goals and what loves I had at the outset.  Will there be reading in Heaven?  I hope so.  Otherwise, truthfully, I may not go.

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Filed under autobiography, book review, Dr. Seuss, education, humor, reading, self portrait, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Holy Bagumba!

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I have just finished reading a wonderful book.  It is a young adult novel bordering on being a children’s book.  It won the 2014 Newbery Medal for best work of children’s literature.  But it is a book of so many dimensions that it totally defies categories.  Librarians with butterfly nets who want to pin this book down on their library shelves will be pointlessly waving their nets at it like they believe it’s a butterfly, but it will soar away from them like an eagle.

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Flora & Ulysses (the Illuminated Adventures) is a combination book of many different things.  G. K. Cambell’s cartoony paffoonies add to and amplify the story to the point that sometimes it becomes a graphic novel.

Flora herself is a comic-book lover and follower of the adventures of a comic-book superhero named Incandesto.  Ulysses the squirrel is run over by a rogue vacuum cleaner and the accident graces him with super powers (the ability to fly and throw cats and write poetry).  And Flora rescues and befriends this newly minted superhero and sets him on a path that pits him against the only super-villain available, Flora’s own mother.

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At certain points, through metaphor, elegance, and supreme focus, the story itself becomes poetry.  But, of course, when the poem ends with a line about the squirrel being hungry, it becomes humorous poetry, simply by the juxtaposition of the sublime with the ridiculous.

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As a writer, Kate DiCamillo is a master of everything I want to be.  She is as much a masterful story-teller as Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, or William Faulkner.  But many people will be put off by the fact that she is a children’s author.  They will ignore her stories because how could a children’s author affect their lives in any way?  But if you are a reader who can think and feel about things in a book, she will make you laugh and make you cry and make you not afraid to die… for love of a good book.

Let me also suggest a few of her other wonderful, wonderful books;

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Filed under book reports, book review, commentary, good books, humor, metaphor, poetry, reading

Cheating at Reading

Three years ago I read 100 books during the school year.  I was a reading teacher.  I had piles of classroom books at all reading levels.  I wanted to record the feat on Goodreads, but I hadn’t figured out how to record things properly on the Goodreads website.  I have no record of those books to look back on.

So this year, 2016, I determined that I would read at least thirty books and record that reading on Goodreads.   Unfortunately I reached the beginning of September 17 books behind schedule.

So, I decided to cheat.  I gathered up a bunch of popcorn books… easy reads, books I set aside after reading half or more of the books, and books about drawing.

I also have a few books by comedians that are easy to buzz through because of the unique way that people like George Carlin and Lewis Black think… unfortunately rather close to the demented way I think.

I also read cartoon books and comic books quickly.

So, I have been cheating right along, finishing at least a book a day.  I am now at only 3 books behind schedule.  It probably is not a good thing for a former reading teacher to cheat at reading.  But I am filling up my reading shelf.  I enjoy the books.  And the way Donald Trump manages his businesses and does charity work, I don’t feel the least bit guilty.

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