Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Books and Bookish Things

MK is 12, but I still read to him before bed. Actually, it is more accurate to say that I read with him before bed. He likes to keep his eyes on the text and correct me if I misread something, but mostly he likes to comment and discuss. It can often take fifteen minutes to get through one page, as we stop three or four times to discuss motivation, ramifications and a host of tangential facts. It has always been the case that MK is at his most loquacious, and is most interested in, and capable of, narrative, at the very end of the day. For years, 80% of the things he said in a day were said in the 30 minutes before sleep. I have no idea why this is. Nowadays he can wax talkative at all times of the day -- though not reliably -- but the before bed slot is still special.

Recently, MK and I read The Thing About Georgie. It's a pretty good read. One of the things about Georgie is that he is a dwarf -- by which I don't mean that he is a fairly tale creature, but that he is affected by dwarfism. It good story about being in the fourth grade, learning to share affection and making new friends. It's also a story about being a kid with a handicap and how that makes Georgie feel about himself and his place in other people's eyes. There are no saccharine ugly-duckling moments. Georgie just gets on with life, faces the same obstacles as other kids, as well as some unique to dwarfs, and gets over enough of them that everyone is feeling good about life by the end. It's interesting to talk to MK about this different kind of disability. He sure does give good advice when its for someone else.

Now we are on to Elijah Of Buxton, which is actually a bit hard because it is written in dialect, so it's not ideal for folks with language issues, but MK so loved Christopher Paul Curtis' other books, The Watsons Go to Birmingham - 1963 and Bud, Not Buddy, that we are sticking with this one, dialect and all.

We also read a little bit of non-fiction (usually just ten minutes) before bed. We did a kid's atlas a while back, which was good for all kinds of discussion. As an offshoot, MK has now moved on to memorizing what he considers to be the most pertinent facts from the CIA World Factbook. Other than flags, the most pertinent facts are the populations of the countries and languages spoken there. He seems to be very concerned as to whether or not English will turn out to be a good language to have learned. It's an obvious worry that it is only the third most popular language on the planet, and so MK is constantly looking for more information that reassures him that English alone is enough to get by in most places. It's something like how buyer's regret can cause us to spend all kinds of time looking up expensive products we just bought so as to convince ourselves we haven't shelled out for a lemon. He can tell you every place in which English is an official language (there are a lot more than I ever imagined that use it for at least one of their official languages) as well as those places where it is widely spoken. Did you know, folks, that only 89% of the US population actually speaks fluent English. Meanwhile, French, which all good little Canadians are forced to study, is only spoken by 23% of the people. This laughably small percentage has led MK to suggest that, when he grows up, he will work towards having it banned. I think I felt the same way at his age.

Currently our non-fiction book is The Kids Book of World Religions, which is a very good read, even for non-kids.

At the adults-only end of the spectrum, I recently read The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, which was very good, but I felt that, if you already know about autism, it can be a bit like reading a tourist guide describing the place you grew up in -- nice, but a bit obvious and oversimplified in places. I read his other adult book (A Spot of Bother) first. I think it is much better. I really enjoyed that.

In among all this book reading, I have actually started writing again. At various times in my life I have put my hand to a fair bit of fiction (though I have never tried to get published). I was too distracted to do any for the past few years, but recently, with things on the home front going so smoothly, I find my enthusiasm rekindled. I even joined a writers group here in my new city and went to my first meeting tonight.


Marla said...

That is great you have joined a writer's group. I am sure that will be good fun.

"80% of the things he said in a day were said in the 30 minutes before sleep." I think a lot of children are like this. It is one reason bed time routine and tucking your child in bed at night is so important. Maybe it is the security of the cozy bed or just winding down that brings out all of the interesting comments and questions. Always a special time.

I checked into The Thing About Georgie because it does sound pretty good. M is not to the point of reading or tolerating me reading a book of that length. I wish she was. I will put this in my favorites on Amazon for later though.

I read The Curious Incident and really enjoyed it. It was a very fast, easy and enjoyable read.

Marla said...

I was trying to find your e mail because I wanted to let you know I appreciate your post above on K. I have a similar outlook which is why I did not post on my blog about K. Most people on the Hub did and some of the posts were beautifully done. It is a sad sad story. I do have great empathy for her mother though and that is where, I differ. I hope you don't mind me commenting here about it. I just wanted you to know I appreciate you sharing your view point. You certainly have not lost me as a reader.