Friday, September 6, 2013

Summer Reading

Well, August was a blur, but I did tuck in some good reading over the summer. I usually try to keep up with my boys and their required reading, while I sneak in a few of my own preferences.

I had never read The Hound of the Baskervilles, but always found Sherlock Holmes in his PBS and movie renditions so entertaining. Now I see the true talent of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In this world of connections, this classic was referenced in my freshman son's summer required reading, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. That's two down. We both gave up on Robinson Crusoe, sorry Mr. Defoe.

As fully expected, I had trouble with the subject matter of The Things They Carried, by Tim O'Brien, but I see why he is acclaimed for his storytelling. He calmly conveys honesty and emotion as he recounts the horrors he lived. Plus, it is always wise to be reminded of the horrors of war as we teeter on the brink of another one. War tactics, strategy, equipment, and rationale are constantly changing. But the losses inflicted are a constant.

For my 6th grader, it was fun joining the adventures in The London Eye Mystery and Wonder: Two very different stories told from the stark perspective of uniquely gifted (or handicapped, depending on how you look at them) children, written by authors (Siobhan Dowd and R.J. Palacio, respectively) with great talents for teaching perspective through child narrative.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking, by Susan Cain, is one of my own choices and, though only part of the way through, I am finding that it is shedding an amazing light on my own DNA.

One of my sisters gave me Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail, by Cheryl Strayed, and it propelled me into plans of my own future hikes, toward or away from things. I followed it up with Bill Bryson's always-hilarious A Walk in the Woods to get a coast-to-coast view of the value of getting off the grid.

I recommend these all, but the best book I read this summer was one I rescued from my parents' shelf: King of the Wind: The Story of the Godolphin Arabian, by Marguerite Henry. Better known for her stories of Misty of the Chincoteague, Henry had only recently teamed with horse illustrator extraordinaire, Wesley Dennis, when this book was published in 1948. Two rather magical auras surround the book in my possession. First of all, I lobbed the idea to my two youngest sons that I would read it to them because it had been my favorite. They humored me by agreeing and then became mesmerized by the story, begging me to read more. This can't possibly happen again. At ages 11 and 14, they won't possibly want me to read to them next summer, maybe not even next month!

The other aura surrounding the book is my re-discovery that it had been my dad's childhood book and had been signed by the author. Those facts had escaped me since my childhood. Where did he go for the book signing? How long did he wait in line? He was all of 12 years old at the publishing. Was it a family affair? Did he bring his kid brother along? Did they wear their cowboy hats and holsters? Why else would Mrs. Henry have added a hand-drawn horseshoe to her signature? It was certainly not the then-46-year-old author's first book signing, but I wonder how she felt at the time. The beautifully illustrated paper cover of my copy wore away years ago, leaving only the rich red hardcover. Its funny little book plate has a squirrel perched on a sign among leaves and reads: "This Book is from the Hoard of Jack McCarthy. Read Thoughtfully, Handle Carefully, Return Promptly." Done. If you have never read King of the Wind and if you ever loved horses, watercolor paintings, and good storytelling, I promise, you will enjoy this book at any age.

Do you have any book recommendations from your summer reading? Happy Fall!

1 comment:

  1. Hmmmm, I have Misty of Chincoteague with the same signature and hoof print. Marguerite Henry must have been hitting Cleveland in the book signing tours in the 40s and 50s!! Thanks for the memory!