Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Time is Passing


by David Ignatow

You wept in your mother's arms
and I knew that from then on
I was to forget myself.

Listening to your sobs,
I was resolved against my will
to do well by us
and so I said, without thinking,
in great panic, To do wrong
in one's own judgment,
though others thrive by it,
is the right road to blessedness.
Not to submit to error
is in itself wrong
and pride.

Standing beside you,
I took an oath
to make your life simpler
by complicating mine
and what I always thought
would happen did:
I was lifted up in joy.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

My Sons' Read Aloud List

We have enjoyed these books, read aloud, beginning in 2001:

Read Aloud Book List Starting 2001

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory-Dahl

Fantastic Mr. Fox-Dahl

Big Friendly Giant –Dahl

James and the Giant Peach- Dahl

Little House in the Big Woods- Wilder

Little House on the Prairie-Wilder

Farmer Boy-Wilder

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone- Rowling

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets-Rowling

Ramona and Beezus-Cleary

Henry Huggins-Cleary

Henry and Ribsy-Cleary

The Hobbit- Tolkien

The Lord of the Rings-The Fellowship of the Ring-Tolkien

The Two Towers- Tolkien

The Return of the King-Tolkien

Little Britches: father and I were Ranchers- Moody

Horse of a Different Color- Moody

Call of the Wild- London

Incident at Hawke’s Hill-Eckert

The Legend of Jimmy Spoon-Gregory

Sacagawea-St George

Lewis and Clark-Ambrose


Gray Boy

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- Rowling

Indian in the Cupboard-Banks

Dragonslayer’s Academy-McMullen

The Best School Year Ever-Robinson

The Return of the Indian- Banks

The Fear Place-Naylor

Watership Down- Adams

Little Men- Alcott

All Creatures Great and Small- Herriot

On the Banks of Plum Creek-Wilder

The Land-Taylor

The Hundred Dresses-Estes

Gentle Ben-Morey

Only Sky and Earth Last Forever-Bencheley

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix- Rowling

Harris and Me- Paulsen

Caddie Woodlawn-Brink

Hatchet- Paulsen

Sarah Bishop-O’Dell

Mr. Tuckett-Paulsen

The River- Paulsen

Call Me Francis Tuckett- Paulsen


The Great Brain-Fitzgerald

Brian’s Winter- Paulsen

Tuckett’s Ride- Paulsen

Tackett’s Gold- Paulsen

Tuckett’s Home- Paulsen

Goodnite, Mr. Tom-Magorian

Hear the Wind Blow-Hahn

A Day No Pigs Would Die-Peck


Poppy- Avi

Milkweed- Spinelli

The Hobbit (second Reading)

My Brother Sam is Dead-


Hook Moon Night-

Dogsong- Paulsen

Harris and Me (second reading)

Yellow Fever 1793


On the Banks of Plum Creek (second reading)

On my Honor

Angela’s Ashes- McCourt

Watership Down (second reading)

Abel’s Island

Series of Unfortunate Events-Snickett

Wilderness Trek to Beaver Creek

The Road- McCarthy

Monday, September 15, 2008

Of Mice and Men

“Aw Lennie…I ain’t takin it away just for meanness. That mouse ain’t

fresh.” From Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men

I have made the acquaintance of many mice, a few I considered friends. My mother was liberal in her view of pets and my brother and I took advantage of her relaxed attitude to experience a wide variety of the animal kingdom in pet capacity. Rodents were small, easy to care for, inexpensive and brimming with personality and interest. They were also remarkably forgiving and sturdy.

I have a vivid memory of seeing my brother Nick’s hamster, Han Solo, floating in the living room in a mini hot air balloon my brother had devised from a paper cup attached to a helium balloon. The hamster seemed nonplussed, but showed less reaction than when he was an unwilling but lively passenger in toy trucks or electric trains. He was finally lost when we decided he might enjoy the real experience and tied kite string to our mock hot air balloon. The string slipped from my fingers in a gust of wind and he went sailing off into a galaxy far, far away and into the annals of rodent history.

Peaches and Herb were my favorite hamsters until I came home from school one day to find that Peaches had killed and devoured Herb. I couldn’t stand the sight of Peaches after she murdered her mate and was glad to hand her off to a friend who admired her and was unaware of her cannibalistic past.

In college, I had an obese black mouse named Gus who enjoyed traveling in my coat pocket. Occasionally, I would forget he was snoozing in my clothes and rush off to class with him curled asleep in my pocket. He seemed to enjoy the lectures on Egyptology at the U of I and would listen attentively long after I had lost interest. He acquired an appreciative fan base of young, neighborhood children who would pound on my apartment door and ask if he could come out to play. Gus lived well past normal mouse longevity- almost 4 years and when he finally expired, he was totally bald and blind. I buried him in a matchbox with a few crumbles of gorgonzola.

When my three sons were younger, they naturally gravitated to the mouse and hamster section of the pet store. When Ben was 4, he brought home a white hamster he named Ed. Ed was extremely adept at escaping. Frequent frantic cries of “Ed is gone!” could be heard throughout the house. Searches would ensue, and Ed would be located scampering down a hallway or crouching in the closet. He would be returned to his cage and various mean of securing his home would be mounted- tape, cardboard wall reinforcements, all to no avail. Ed was a minute Houdini. One day, I was busy about the house when I hear the familiar cry announcing that once again Ed was on the lamb. Within seconds I heard a shriek and ran to the living room. Jerry, the rat terrier was sitting on the couch and Ed, or what was once Ed was next to Jerry. Obviously, Jerry, ever helpful, had located Ed and in a friendly yet extensively damaging gesture, carried him to the couch. Jerry, in terrier fashion had secured Ed’s head in his jaws and this manner of transportation had caused Ed’s eyes to bulge gruesomely in a manner not conducive to life. Ed died with a particularly horrified expression on his whiskery face. Ben, unfortunately, had come upon this spectacle and after a momentary stunned silence, screeching commenced. Clearly disgusted at our lack of appreciation for his pest killing abilities, Jerry fled the scene, and I tried to calm an inconsolable Ben who, by now was cradling the dead, bug-eyed Ed, (the mouse really looked exactly like a rubber stress squeeze toy). Ed was buried and weeks later, Ben was still sensitive about the tragedy. One afternoon, Jerry sniffed out the rapidly decomposing Ed and came trotting inside with Ed’s mangled remains in his jaws eliciting another round of trauma.

Recently, we experienced an interesting rodent adventure with my youngest son Sam’s hamster, Vern. Vern was anti-social and perhaps even a pathological hamster. Disgusted and bitter towards humans, he escaped from his cage and after a thorough search of the house; we all braced ourselves for the inevitable discovery of dog mangled rodent. A week passed and there was still no sign of Vern-dead or alive.

While sitting at the computer one evening, I heard a scraping noise above me in the ceiling and looked overhead to see a large hole growing before my eyes. Vern was alive and well-surviving in the sub ceiling of the basement on a diet of ceiling tile. Attempts to corral him were futile and while I tried to work he chomped noisily overhead and sent a steady cascade of chewn material raining down on my head. He would craftily retreat when I tried to grab at him. Each morning, when I came down to work, I would fume at the ever growing holes in the tiles. Sometimes I could feel beady eyes watching me and would look up to find him staring at me from above. It was unnerving. I even took his picture to send to disbelieving friends. As the holes grew ever larger, I began to feel he was mocking me and grew irrationally angry and frustrated at my inability to corner him. I declared war with Vern-o.

I used every weapon at my disposal to flush him out, but he was too wily. He finally escaped via mysterious channels into the outdoors and I miraculously spied him once lurking in the front yard. When I approached, Vern reared up on his hind legs like a miniature grizzly bear, growled (I swear) and came at me in a threatening manner. He had turned feral. I slowly backed away. The last I saw of Vern he had joined a pack of voles and was leading vicious attacks on their sworn enemies, the shrews.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Links to Book Lists

Good lists for boys-

Another list sent from reader:
Thanks Mark!

Young boys-

Older boys-

Junior High Boys-


List for girls age preschool through grade 3

Good general list for girls-

Good list to help raise strong girls and boys-

Reading With Children

I have a picture of myself at age 2, sitting on my great grandmother’s lap. We are at the kitchen table and she is reading to me. Looking over my childhood pictures, I am amazed at the number of photos that show me being read to by various relatives.

A favorite great aunt has often told me how my uncle would finally hide my stacks of books for brief periods because they were so weary of my constant demands to be read to.

After I taught myself to read with “Lovable Lyle”, books were my first friends and as a child I surrounded myself with them. Laura Ingalls, Tom Sawyer, and Jo March lived and breathed in my mind.

Frank McCourt, author of “Angela’s Ashes” wrote of the importance books played in his bleak childhood in Ireland and how one of his toughest school masters counseled him to “stock his mind” with books. Quoting his teacher, McCourt said, “You have to study and learn so that you can make up your own mind about history and everything else but you can’t make up an empty mind. Stock your mind, stock your mind. You might be poor, your shoes might be broken, but your mind is a palace.”

When I look back over my own years of parenting my sons, I know I have made significant mistakes. I didn’t say “no” and mean it often enough, I didn’t make them do enough housework- I’ve catered to them too much. The list could go on. I have, however, done at least one thing very well. From the time they were infants, I read aloud to them every day. We began with picture books and moved on until, by ages 5, 6, and 7- we were reading aloud young adult fiction books and even some adult books with ease.

While little, the boys shared a room which made the evening reading routine easy. Once everyone was settled in, I would read each night. I couldn’t wait to share my childhood favorites. Out came my old Little House books, Mark Twain and Louisa May Alcott. I discovered lists of good books especially for boys on the internet and we delved into Gary Paulsen and adventures with Brian and his survival in the wilderness with only a hatchet to help him survive. We eventually read all Paulsen’s books and many were so

fraught with excitement that the boys would demand many chapters read each night. The laughter we shared as we read “Harris and Me”- the tale of a boy’s summer spent on a wild cousins’ farm, will always remain in my memory. We loved “The Call of the Wild” Occasionally I pushed ahead of their listening abilities and made mistakes in choices. “The Red Badge of Courage” was too advanced and dry when read aloud. After a few chapters, and too many yawns, I admitted defeat set it aside for a later date. “Watership Down”, however, was loved and requested twice (and is still a favorite with all three). We read the entire Lord of the Rings Trilogy well before the movies came out- and the movies were made more vibrant because we knew the characters intimately through out reading.

Throughout their childhood, evening meant the routine of reading together, stopping to talk about scenes, character, a new word meaning; anything that related to the books. My middle son sometimes grew fidgety, and when this happened, he knew that he could work quietly with a basket of Legos while still listening, or draw with pen and paper on the clipboard by his bed. I kept a list each year of the books we finished and it was fun to try to top last years count.

During these years it was great to have wonderful children’s’ librarians to recommend books and to talk about books we loved. I think of Mrs. Doherty, a great librarian who kindly assisted my sons through grade school and is one their lists of best teachers. I also think of Paula Valentine. Paula is a wonderful librarian and teacher of children and one of the kindest people I know. We certainly miss her.

I know when I am old and my boys are living their lives with their own families, I will always remember the books and laughter we shared.