“Cherish the child and the adult will know love.” — my daughter, reading from her fancy birth certificate that’s on the wall.
Both kids hysterical with laughter over this.
“That’s all you need to be happy, that’s all you need to know in life.” — my girl
“Heh heh heh hee heeeee heh heeeeee ya yee yee” — her brother, laughing maniacally
Riddle me this, Batman… why didn’t I review Julie Buxbaum’s “The Opposite of Love” when it came out in 2008? Hmm. Who knows. I read it, really enjoyed it, and refused to pass it along to friends. Selfish, selfish girl.
Emily Haxby, an almost-thirty-year-old lawyer in Manhattan, does not know why, but she cannot commit. Her ma is dead, her big-dog politico dad (“This is Lieutenant Governor Haxby”) is… a handful. And her Grandpa Jack is not doing well. But she won’t admit it. And then there’s Andrew, her ex. “I broke up with him, remember.” Mason, her sexy co-worker. And her boss, who likes to, uh, show off.
Great book, good summer read, and I hear it’s been optioned for a movie.
Buxbaum’s new novel, “After You,” is as good as her first, but it’s a different sort of read. Ellie Lerner flies from the Boston suburbs where she lives a quiet, not entirely happy life with her husband, to London, to care for her best friend Lucy’s child (and husband, perhaps?) after Lucy is murdered on a quiet Thursday morning as she walked her daughter to school from their Notting Hill home.
It’s not a murder mystery, but it turns out Lucy did have her mysteries. And what is Ellie running from? Or to? I especially liked the character of the little girl, Sophie, who becomes selectively mute after the tragedy. The scenes with Ellie, where they read “The Secret Garden” together, are poignant. Really good book.
In the middle of these two books, I started re-reading Toni Morrison’s “Song of Solomon” for the tenth time or so. I first read it when I was in college, just a few years after its release. This book has always had a hold on me. The quirky, elusive Ruth; the mystery that is Macon Dead; his son, Milkman, aka Macon Dead Jr.
They slid into a booth and ordered Scotch and water. Milkman drank his quickly and ordered another before asking Guitar, “How come they call me Milkman?”
“How the fuck would I know? That’s your name, ain’t it?”
“My name is Macon Dead.”
“You drag me all the way over here to tell me your name?”
“I need to know it.”
But Hagar… I think it was Hagar who got to me first. Hagar, “spinning into a bright blue place,” a place “where everything was frozen except for an occasional burst of fire inside her chest that crackled away until she ran out into the streets to find Milkman Dead.”
Shivers, every time. I love “Jazz,” too, it’s second on my list for my top favorite Toni Morrison novels. “Beloved,” “The Bluest Eye,” and the others, all good, but “Song of Solomon” is mine, mine, mine. I’m reading the Everyman’s Library edition this time around, with an introduction by Reynolds Price.
(Please see disclaimer, y’all.)
“I’m not angry — I’m delightful.” — Bob Dylan, “Don’t Look Back”
On the coffee table:
So. So, so, so… Happy Father’s Day, Hockey God. In honor of the occasion, and his mother visiting, he cleaned the entire house and is at this moment doing the grocery shopping. Oh my God, I really am the worst wife, and he really is the best son, father, husband. I did buy the wine, and… cleaned a bathroom? And then bought more wine and Steve went to the farmers market. Good enough!
I review books here, occasionally, you may have noticed. Some I buy, some we get from the library, some are sent to me by publicists. I’ve just started Mark Edmundson’s “The Fine Wisdom and Perfect Teachings of the Kings of Rock and Roll (a memoir).” It’s funny, and I think Steve will like it. (HarperCollins Publishers.) Ditto “Heart of a Shepherd,” by Rosanne Parry. (Random House, 2009, $15.99, 161 pages.) Just started it, it’s really good, yes I’m in the middle of four other books and doing a reading sprint. I first met Rosanne because she was volunteering at my old school! The students loved her.
She’s a good girl, good writer and a lot of fun. Give her a read. No, she didn’t pay me to say that, and I bought her book because I like supporting writers.
Brad Meltzer’s “Heroes for My Son” (Forty-four Steps, Inc., HarperCollins, 2010, 111 pages, $19.99) is a moving, inspirational book that he compiled for his two sons. (One for his daughter is on the way.) I skipped Jefferson, Washington, and Bush One (sorry), but was especially moved by the entries on Roberto Clemente, Gandhi, Mr. Rogers, Mother Teresa, and Meltzer’s mom and granddad, Teri Meltzer & Ben Rubin.
“If you have a chance to accomplish something that will make things better for people coming behind you and you don’t do that, you are wasting your time on this Earth.” — Roberto Clemente
Happy Father’s Day, guys.
My Favorite Kid Books (this week):
These were just the ones that were stacked on the coffeetable and the arm of the loveseat, believe it or not. (Except “Noonday Friends,” which I can’t locate but want to read again. There is an 8-year-old here who is a lot like Marshall, Franny’s little brother, who longs to stay up… All. Night. Long.) I’m already getting excited for the new school year to start and no, not because I’m ready for my own kids to go back to school, ha. We’ve barely gotten started. We’re enjoying summer break and have some fun stuff planned — trips to the beach, visits to the farmers markets, exploring our new neighborhood. There are lots of music festivals and picnics on the schedule for this summer and (best news of all to me), a new branch of the Washington County Library is opening next week, yes!
So no big vacations this summer, no road trips, but lots of at-home fun and getting to know our new town. (And we’re getting a surprise visit from our friends from Texas, wooooooooot!) In the fall, three of us will start at three new schools. (Steve doesn’t get to go to school. Pity.)
I gathered up the books you see pictured here, read through the ones I haven’t memorized yet, and popped them into a tub that I’ll take with me when I start at my new school in the fall. If it’s a high school, do you think the kids will still be interested in “Where the Wild Things Are”? Probably yes, right? If it’s a middle school, will they think that my recommendations (Mary Stolz, Louise Fitzhugh) are too old-fashioned? We’ll see…
Book reviews (and lots of library trips, and listening to recommendations from students and teachers) are the best way for me to explore some of the new fiction and non-fiction that’s out there. Also, ego has to go out the window. Just because I (or you, or your grandma) loved a book, this is the best book ever, you’ll love it, you have to love it as much as we did!!!!
Modern readers might not agree. I sometimes find my mind wandering to my K-8 library, from my own childhood. We had a fairly large school, with fairly large children (I clearly remember being 9 years old and staring up, up, up at the ginormous 8th graders. They were adult-size. Wow, would I ever be that big???). But our library was tiny, and the books… they were boring. They were Dullsville, U.S.A. They were dusty.
The librarian disappeared, who knows what happened to her. The mother of my babysitter (and neighbor) took over the library. I remember thinking, “You can be a mom and run a library? Hmm,” and stashing that thought away to pull out 30 years later. She must not have had a book budget, because all of the books, I am sad to say, were from the 1940s or thereabouts. I remember going back and forth along the shelves, hoping that a new book would jump out at me.
With my library work, I’ve been able to make that happen for my students. I was lucky enough to get grant money, not just once, but several times. And I received a small grant, too, so… more books! The students really wanted the Percy Jackson books and I didn’t have a one. Imagine how satisfying when one of my students griped, Still no Percy Jackson! and I could tell him, Look on the cart.
“Nothing,” he said, frowning.
“Look again,” I told him.
“A-ha!!” he said, grabbing the first in the series. Big smiles from both of us.
This is the most fun I’ve ever had with work.
Seriously, when kids are having a hard time with reading — if it’s because of learning disabilities, if they’re not getting the hang of it, or if it’s just that they haven’t found the right genre — picture books are great. Graphic novels are even better.
(Please see my disclaimer policy.)
steve, don’t go into shock or anything, but to celebrate your big weekend i will…
1) stay off Facebook
2) avoid e-mails
3) um. cook?
yeah, i will try! happy father’s day to one great dad, husband, son and friend.
On the coffee table: