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LISTEN & LEARN, READ & REMEMBER
I love reading posts about reading and books and especially young adult and children's books which I have a huge collection of and soft spot for, and this post by new blog find Diamond in the Window made me laugh out loud. I knew EXACTLY what she meant by "one of us" and EXACTLY how she felt by having some of her recommendations rejected by her kids.

Only one of my children is a real reader. Karin reads...usually under pressure, though she does surprise me now and then by picking up something. Usually, however, it's a Young Jedi book or a comic. Martin, on the other hand, is just like me. He reads all the time and when he's deep in a book, you have to say his name more than once to get his attention and repeat his name again to keep it. He has read, re-read and loved several of the books I loved as a child, but if I try to subtly push anything towards him, he invariably ignores it in order to pick up The Big Book of Animal Facts for the millionth time or even The Bart Book (or worse, The Homer Book).

I'm constantly excited to show him books, to recommend them, to suggest great reads, and ALWAYS a bit hurt that he doesn't grab them and devour them with the same excitement. I know he has to find his own tastes and make his own choices about what he wants and likes to read, and even though I'm really just glad he loves reading, sometimes it would be fun to have my tastes and recommendations validated by my kid. Every time he DOES read a book I've praised or recommended I always feel like I've won a major mom prize.

It's funny about book recommendations, though I think it's funnier about music recommendations. I find it very difficult to take music reviews with any degree of seriousness: musical taste is SO subject to opinion. But books! Hmmm...I don't think it's any coincidence that bookish people love to talk about books and recommend them to others, because we are always on the lookout for the next big crush: the author whose writing causes us to fall in love all over again with words and worlds. The hook of the book!

When I was in the States 2 years ago, during one of my several hour-long browses through Barnes & Noble, a clerk in the young adult section, whom I asked about suggestions for Martin (who was 9 at the time), suggested The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan to me. I read the blurb on the back and the excerpt page and thought, "Hmmm...greek gods and modern-day teenage sensibilities...sounds good for a child who LOVES D'Aulaire's Greek Myths and the Warriors cat books. I meant to read it, too, but Martin (after quite a long delay) beat me to it. He liked it so much we had to order the next 3 and he was in a fever of anticipation for the last one (there's one more to come) which came out this past Christmas. I've read them all, too, now and each time I read something Martin has enjoyed I think I have a better handle on what to recommend to him, but the result is invariably the same. He reads what sounds interesting to HIM, and quite often, it's not what I want him to try. It's frustrating since I KNOW he would love the books I think he'd love if he'd only give them a chance. It makes me laugh at myself, too, because of the many many times I've done the same thing: not tried something someone else recommended for whatever reason and later tried it only to kick myself for not trying it sooner!

I tell the kids, every time they turn up their noses at something without trying it, to remember the story of me & sushi: look how many years I missed out on sushi because I absolutely refused to try it: EW RAW FISH NO WAY ARE YOU NUTS? And now: Duh. Commence self-kicking.

You want to save your kids from those sorts of errors, right? You want them to learn from YOUR experience, forgetting that everyone really only learns from their OWN. We rarely learn to appreciate the wisdom of our elders until we're beyond the know-it-all immortality of childhood ourselves.

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years." —Samuel Clemens

What new books are you reading that you'd recommend right now? I just finished The Children's Book by A.S. Byatt. It was lovely and lyrical and appalling and twisted and crammed. I've just started The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows, which I'm already being drawn into after only a few short pages. Before that I plowed through Ursula Le Guin's trilogy, Gifts, Voices and Powers, which reconfirmed her masterful storytelling and style. Before that, the last really good young adult books I read were Lee Raven: Boy Thief by Zizou Corder and Flora Segunda by Ysabeau S. Wilce, both of which I have praised to Martin and neither of which he has picked up...yet.
 hopeful
mood: hopeful
music: Amy Macdonald—This is The Life


Comments

I *loved* Guernsey Literary..., and could not put it down until I'd read it straight through -- something I don't do very often these days (it tends to be incompatible with working the following day, after staying up waaay too late reading!). It was one of those books that just transported me.

I started it really late yesterday and stayed up to 1:30 (on a WORK NIGHT!) reading last night and had to FORCE myself to put it down and go to sleep. I'm at work now and all I can think about is getting to finish the last bit when I get home. :)

Preachin' to the choir! Boy, have I been through the same thing with my daughter. She's a little better now that I've introduced her to a few authors that she can't get enough of, but still...there's no love for Anne of Green Gables, or Madeleine L'Engle, or dozens of others she's determined not to like (or so it seems).

As for what I'm reading now, I'm re-reading a book that I liked in high school, then lost touch with and never heard of again. I remembered it fondly and found it was re-issued relatively recently, so picked up a copy (guess I wasn't the only one who remembered it in a positive light). It's kind of interesting because there's a part of me that understands why I liked it so much and even while particular sections strike me in a different way now, echoes of that earlier liking have me liking it still. Anyway, I'm not done with it yet, but I expect I'll be keeping it when I am. It's The Last Convertible by Anton Myrer.

No love for St. Madeleine!? O!!! Well, in her defense, I didn't read Anne until WELL after college and STILL love it to pieces so there's still hope :)

(Anonymous)

I didn't get that rebellious instinct until after I left home from college (oh, such a saintly child was I), and NOW, whenever my mom recommends I read or try something, I make sure to stay clear of that very thing. :) Have you tried any sneaky mom tricks to get Martin to read your favorites? Like leaving them lying around the house, maybe next to the recycling so they look rejected? Or using ye olde reverse psychology to make him think you absolutely do not recommend them?
~ Bethany

I've tried the laying around the house thing, but I can't do it very long because hello! STUFF LYING AROUND MUST BE PICKED UP. hahaa! :D

(Anonymous)

Since I just got back from the States I've renewed my book mountain and am reading The Orchid Thief and The Passion of Artemisia. The Orchid Thief is meh, but I really like the Passion.

Do you use GoodReads.com? It's a fun site I use to keep track of the books I read and practice writing what I think of them (something I'm not great at but want to get better doing). If you are or decide to join, let me know!

My trick so far with Caroline is to read her our favorite books with tremendous drama and attention. She loves the attention and so far that outweighs everything else. I'm sure she'll turn down our reading recommendations (she's that type of kid; she wants to discover everything herself) so have decided to have favorite books ready for her to find when she runs into them in our bookcases. **Wow, I have NO idea how that got there!!**

julia@prague

I really liked Artemisia, too. :) My kids stopped wanting me to read to them about a year and a half ago, which still makes me sad...or rather they wanted MORE to be able to watch a show or play a PC game instead, and I wouldn't THEN allow them to stay up past their bedtime for reading aloud. Impasse.

Martin doesn't, to my knowledge, peruse "my" bookcase, even though it's in the playroom. Not sure why, actually. I'll have to ask him.

(Anonymous)
From Megsie

Oh, I LOVE The Diamond in the Window! And I LOVE children's books too. I used to be a teacher and I have shelves and shelves of children's books. Since I taught primary kids I have more picture books than chapter books, but there are many that I love, and have that I read aloud to my classes.

My daughter is almost 8 and is a reader, but she is enjoying re-reading books that have been read to her. I still read to her at night, and we negotiate who gets to choose the book. She gets a lot of presents that are books, so I can influence her that way too. I am sure that soon enough she will be choosing her own books to read ON HER OWN. She is enjoying the new Judy Blume series "The pain and the great one." Of course, she loves them--who doesn't love Judy Blume? I am sure that will lead us to the books I loved when I was in elementary school. I bought here the first book of the Box Car Children for Christmas, but we haven't gotten to that yet. She is choosing Captain Underpants along with her brother and sister, so I have read the first six of the series THREE TIMES EACH.

I read the first Nancy Drew book over the weekend. I had never read ANY. I was more of a Hardy Boys kind of girl. But after reading Diamond in the Window's post on the Nancy Drew series, I thought I better read them. I have The Book Thief and The Guernsey Literary... on my NEXT TO READ pile on my bed side table, but the new Jennifer Weiner book is peeking at me from the book shelf, and my book club just chose The Girls from Ames, which I have yet to get. I haven't read any of Laini's books yet either, but also have to buy them, or at least Blackbringer because it is out right now. And, I have held out for the paper back copy of the last Harry Potter which will (finally!!!) be out in July, so then everything will be put on the back burner.

Ok. Sorry I will stop now. As you can see I could go on forever!

Still thinking of you... hope your DR.'s appointment goes well.

Re: From Megsie

Funnily enough, I never really cared all that much for Judy Blume. Not sure why, maybe I just didn't hit her at quite the right age. But I LOVE the Boxcar children :) And Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden.

The Book Thief is excellent, as is Guernsey...I have about 15 minutes left of reading it and find myself putting it down so it will last longer. :D

Kyle is reading this series: artemisfowl.com

Although I have not read any of them, he likes it enough to talk me into buying him the next in the series when we were at the book store yesterday. =)

I haven't read those yet, though I've picked them up a couple of times in the bookstore. Martin has the first one I think, but he hasn't read it either.

(Anonymous)

Whoops! The book he bought was "The Magician, The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flattiel" by Michael Scott. He is reading both series I mentioned. I'm just the mom, you know, that doesn't know up from down!

~ sherry

I'll have to look that one up, I haven't heard of it!

Just ordered your book! I'm excited to check it out. As far as reading recommendations, I think you would love The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti. Although it's not YA, I think your son would love it too. It's a great story about a boy, and it starts out at an orphanage. To me it's a mixture of Charles Dickens and John Irving.
--cynthia

I will check it out right away! And thanks :)

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