Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sunday Scribblings #113: Curves

This week's Sunday Scribblings asks:
Has life thrown you a curve ball? Do you love hugging the curves while you are driving? Do you love or hate your physical curves? Winkipedia defines "Curve" as: "In mathematics, the concept of a curve tries to capture the intuitive idea of a geometrical one-dimensional and continuous object." But we use the word in a lot of different ways. What do you have to say about curve/ curves?

I had only one image come to mind with this prompt: mountain roads. That brought me to thinking about the differences between Iowa, where we lived for 5 years during graduate school, and Tennessee, where we lived before and since Iowa. The poem following the blurb I wrote during graduate school in Iowa, back when we would make the trip from Iowa to Tennessee once a year, and we only dreamed that we might return to Tennessee someday for good. The picture is of my youngest son, who was born here in Tennessee, and his friend looking out at the great expanse of Great Smoky Mountains, one autumn evening.


There are things you miss about the South but mostly you miss the mountains. You never learn to love the prairie. You never love the big empty Iowa sky and the straight roads, cutting even squares and rectangles through the farms. You never love the tall corn and straight rows of soybeans. It is all too orderly. You miss the sharp curves of the mountain roads, the thrill of fear, the proximity of the edge. You miss the tangle of laurel thickets and confusion of kudzu. You miss the way the mountains stretch and curl back into themselves, gently curving like the stillest sea.

And when you are home again, finally, you will never miss that midwestern wind, endless in its straightforward, relentless pursuit.

Seventeen Hours, Give or Take (Driving South)

We count on someday,
coffee on the front porch,
Buffalo Mountain still

in its own black shadow.
We live now
for the next vacation
and the next, driving southeast
and then south and east,
these strange selves

as the farms turn to forests,
corn to tobacco.
Two hours to go
and we are easy again
as if some lethal spell
has been lifted. We unzip

our stiff suits
at the state line
and toss them out the window.
Our skin beneath is warm

and smells greenly of wood.
We can't stop breathing.
(By Sarah Small. Published in Breathing the Same Air, copyright 2001)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Booking Through Thursday: What Is Reading, Fundamentally?

btt button

Today's Booking Through Thursday asks:

What is reading, anyway? Novels, comics, graphic novels, manga, e-books, audiobooks — which of these is reading these days? Are they all reading? Only some of them? What are your personal qualifications for something to be “reading” — why? If something isn’t reading, why not? Does it matter? Does it impact your desire to sample a source if you find out a premise you liked the sound of is in a format you don’t consider to be reading? Share your personal definition of reading, and how you came to have that stance.

Do you have something to say about this? You can post on your own blog and leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments at Booking Through Thursday—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!

Cereal boxes, classified ads, the bathroom walls, War and Peace: yes, it's all reading. Whatever the format, yes, it's reading. But I do have my preferences. First of all, there must be something to read. If I must sit in one place for more than a couple of minutes and there is no one next to me with whom to converse, I must have reading material. I prefer to have something of substance, but I'll read newspaper ads if that's all that is available. I'll even pick up a scrap of paper on the floor of the van to read if I don't have a magazine stashed away.

The format is important. I prefer traditional print text, hard copy. I haven't yet been able to read entire books online, and I print out short-stories and often e-books. The whole kindle thing excites me not in the least. I think this might be a relationship thing for me: I like the relationship between book-in-hand and eyes. Could be related to my terrible vision. Along the same lines, I appreciate audiobooks and do consider this as "reading," but all has to be right in order for me to fully appreciate one. For example, a couple of years ago, I drove the 14-hour trip to New York with my 3 kids. The younger two sat in the back and watched DVDs much of the time, but my teenager and I listened to The Jungle the whole way there and nearly the whole way home. There were no distractions, no extraneous noises. But I couldn't just listen to an audiobook on our daily drives about town; I need that long stretch of highway.

I'm not into comics, manga, etc. Never have been. I'm way too much of a word lover, big blocks-of-text lover. But I certainly consider in reading. Just not for me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Weekly Geeks: Other Forms of Storytelling

The theme of this week's Weekly Geeks centers on other forms of storytelling besides books. The possibilities are all intriguing: TV shows, movies, music, theater. How do we tell stories? Where do we find stories? I love the stories told on TV and movies, in music and music videos, and at the theater. But when I think of storytelling, I think of my father.

My father is a poet, although he has spent his life as a scientist. To do what he does (apple breeding, fruit-growing) takes the gentle soul of a poet; I believe botany--or botany-in-nature as opposed to taxonomy, for example-- and poetry are intertwined beyond the sacred worlds of science and literature. A wild rose tangled in a rusty barbed-wire fence appeals to both the poet and the botanist, as does an orchard heavy with apple blossoms.

My father is a natural storyteller. These days one can get a master's degree in storytelling; East Tennessee State University offers one. If you live in East Tennessee, you are likely aware of the National Storytelling Festival held annually in Jonesborough. Closer to home, Pigeon Forge has been hosting a Storytelling Festival the past few years that is growing each year.

But it is my father's storytelling that I like best. My earliest memories include my father telling stories on long car trips. Rarely did we hear the same story twice. He might tell orchard stories, Grandma Riley stories, army stories, or war stories. He might tell childhood stories of growing up amidst a swarm of wild Irish cousins in tiny Dix, Illinois. One-room schoolhouse stories, fire on the farm stories. War stories never included battle, but rather the slices of life that spoke of survival: chocolate ration bars scraped into mugs of sweetened-condensed milk and warmed over a fire along the Rhine to make the best hot chocolate ever. The private from Long Island who always wanted "an-coy-veys." Too much salt in the beans.

When my father tells stories, his voice slips back into a gentle southern dialect. Although he has lived in New York State for 40 years--nearly half his life--the distinguishable sounds of Southern Illinois are just beneath his tongue. A smallish drawl, a lingering of vowels.

Around the dinner table at night, we soak in his stories still. In the past two decades he has recorded many of these stories in writing, and when I read them, I hear his voice clear as the scent of apple blossoms in April. The greatest storyteller at the National Festival could not, for me, compare to my father and his collection of slices of life.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Book Review: Winter Wheat

I can't imagine why, in all my years of high school, college, and graduate school as an English major, I had never heard of Mildred Walker. Her writing is entirely along the lines and quality of Willa Cather and Wallace Stegner--OK, maybe not quite as spectacular--but pretty darn close. So why isn't she included in American Lit anthologies/reading lists? Why aren't we teaching her when we study the American West or the impact of WWI and II? I have no idea. All I can say is that if I were teaching American Lit again, I would seriously consider including Winter Wheat on our reading list.

But back to the book. Winter Wheat tells the story of Ellen Webb, a young woman born and raised on a wheat farm in Montana, during a 2-year span of her life. Ellen has spent an idyllic childhood on the farm, loved by her parents and completely satisfied with ranch life. She is a hard worker on the farm but desires a college education. With a good crop, her parents are able to send her to college in Minnesota, where she quickly falls in love. As Ellen says, "I hadn't meant to fall in love so soon, but there's nothing you can do about it. It's like planning to seed in April and then having it come off so warm in March that the earth is ready."

Ellen's troubles begin when Gil comes to Montana for a visit, and Ellen begins to see her parents and herself in a whole new way. She is painfully aware of her mother's foreignness (she's from Russia) and her father's sickness, and she convinces herself that they are trapped in a loveless marriage.

The story is beautifully written. Ellen is a tremendously likable character. I loved her romanticism mixed with a healthy dose of sensibility. Mr. and Mrs. Webb are also extremely well-drawn, memorable characters., and Walker's descriptions of Montana are wonderful, as well. This is one of my favorite books so far in 2008.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Perfect Sunday

The Sunday

This is one of those really, absolutely perfect Sundays. The day itself is gorgeous. I had a particularly enjoyable day at church, as it was my turn to lead Junior Church (2nd-5th graders), and the kids were just really delightful. "Delightful" isn't a word I use much, but it so appropriately fits the kids today. After church, the tomato soup at Panera was perfect and no child complained about his or her meal. And when we came home, I read until I fell asleep, and then took a blissful, undisturbed nap. While I napped, Dr. H. did the grocery shopping.

I am still reading Mildred Walker's Winter Wheat. I can't imagine why I've never come across Mildred Walker before in all my years of studying literature. Winter Wheat is an absolute treasure, very similar in style and subject to Willa Cather's My Antonia. I'll be sad to finish this one, but I do have Ami McKay's The Birth House to look forward to next. Summer reading is so delicious.

Since last week I posted a review of Astrid and Veronika, and I have a stack of books that I've read to the kids to review. I'm lazy about kids' books. I have at last managed to post my entire TBR List. As of yet I haven't added to it from last week, but I still have more Sunday Salons and Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books to peruse.

I am thinking about hosting a house-warming party here on SmallWorld Reads. I've got the topic in mind; I just have to work out the details. Stay tuned and have a great week of reading.

Sunday Scribblings #112: Quitting

Here is a tragic flaw: I quit people. Jobs, books, hobbies--what do these things matter? I am the real villain. I am soaking in a bucket of undiluted guilt. I am a people-quitter.

Oh, the collection of cast-offs isn't a massive one. I could name each one, but they would all fit the same description. I quit people who threaten me in their instability. Who frighten me with their grasping need. Who clutch at me on their way down. Who avert their eyes because they haven't told the whole truth: from fragments to chunks, from pebbles to boulders, something big is missing.

And, I argue, I am not the one who can find the missing pieces. I am not a solver of riddles. I balk at reading between the lines. I put together the borders, but someone else must fill in the middle.

Because I quit.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Book Review: Astrid and Veronika

This book by Linda Olsson has been on my reading list for so long that I had no memory of what it might be about when I at last got to it. I am so glad I finally read this gem. Olsson (her website is here) is a lyrical writer; she takes time about this craft of writing, creating phrases that fit together like poetry. Neighbors Astrid and Veronika are both lonely, heartbroken women. Astrid, nearing 80, has lived a solitary, sad life; Veronika, in her early 30s, has come to this tiny town to recover from a terrible loss. Their stories run a parallel course: both women are without mothers and without daughters, but ultimately find this relationship in each other.

This is a quiet, reflective novel. Olsson has wonderful insights into the concepts of time, memory and perception, and I found myself mulling over many of her statements. Like this:
"Children have to build their world from such incomplete information. Other people make decisions for them, and only fragments of the rationale are ever conveyed. As children we inhabit a world built of incoherent snippets. The process of embellishing and filling the holes is an unconscious one, I think. And perhaps it continues all our lives."

And this:
"'Time. I don't understand it,' Veronika said. 'I think I have never grasped the essence of time. Memories seem to surface in no particular order, with no time attached. Yesterday can seem as distant as last year. … Some of my clearest memories are of the briefest moments,' Veronika continued. 'I have years of life that have left no traces, and minutes that are so ingrained in my mind that I relive them every day.'"

I love to come across an insight into something I've often pondered: the fragments of childhood memories, what we choose to remember and how much we've lost in the journey. Olsson does this well.

I loved this novel. Astrid and Veronika are women of much depth, and their stories are heartwrenching but mostly satisfying. Mostly because a few of the key points of the stories were incomplete, or perhaps I was too dense to grasp what exactly happened--or why--in a couple of instances. But the writing is lovely and the characters wonderful.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

My Ever-Growing TBR List

Nearly all of these suggestions have come from book blogs, Semicolon's Saturday Review of Books, The Sunday Salon posts, and Sonlight's bibliovores lists. I've only just begun to note where I've read the review. If you've reviewed any of these books on your blog, feel free to post a comment with the link and I'll add it to my list.
*Indicates books added in 2009.

A Country Doctor’s Casebook by R. MacDonald
A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by D. Eggers
All Good Gifts
by Kathleen Morgan (my 2009 review here)
Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler (my 2008 review here)
*Annie's Ghosts: A Journey into a Family Secret by Steve Luxenberg.
Aprons on a Clothesline by T. DePree
Arctic Dreams
by Barry Lopez
Arctic Homestead
by Cobb
Atonement by Ian McEwan (my 2008 review here)
Beautiful Boy by David Sheff
Behind the Burqa by Sulima and Hala (reviewed by Semicolon)
Birth House
by Amy McKay (my 2008 review here)
Black, White and Red trilogy
by Ted Dekker
Bless Your Heart, Tramp
by Celia Rivenbark
Blood Hollow
by W. Krueger
Blood of Flowers
by A. Amirrezvani
Blood Work
by M Connelly
Blue Ridge by TR Pearson (my 2008 review here)
*Bonesetter's Daughterby Amy Tan (my 2009 review here)
Book of a Thousand Days by S. Hale (reviewed on Semicolon and Maw Books)
Book of Lost Things by J. Connelly
Bookseller of Kabul by A. Seierstad (my 2009 review here and reviewed on Semicolon)
Bootletter’s Daughter by M. Maron
Born on a Blue Day by D. Tammet (reviewed on Sam’s Book Blog)
Breakfast at Tiffany's by Capote
Briar Rose by Jane Yolen
(Reviewed here in 2008 at SmallWorld Reads and at Maw Books)
Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo (Reviewed at Bookstack)
Bright Side of Disaster by Katherine Center (reviewed by CaribousMom)
Buffalo Soldier by C. Bohjalian
Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
(my 2008 review here)
Child of My Heart
by Alice McDermott (reviewed by Educating Petunia and here in 2008 on SmallWorld Reads)
Commoner by J.B. Schwarz
Confederates in the Attic (reviewed by Semicolon)
Confessions of a Common Reader by Anne Fadiman (reviewed by Literary Feline)
Conversations with a Fat Girl by Liza Palmer (recommended by Kristina; my 2009 review here)
*Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese (my review here and reviewed at The Book Lady's Blog)
Dancing Under the Red Star by K. Tobien (my review here)
*The Dawning of the Day: A Jerusalem Tale by Haim Sabato (reviewed at Fresh Ink Books)
Dear Enemy by Jack Cavanagh
Death in the Family
by James Agee (my 2008 review here)
Death’s Acre by William M. Bass
Dedication by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Strauss
(My 2009 review here; Reviewed by Bookstack)
Departed, The by K. Mackel
*Diary, The by Eileen Goudge (Reviewed at Lesa's Book Critiques)
Digging to America by Anne Tyler
Dinner with a Perfect Stranger by D. Gregory
Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst (my review here)
*Dough: A Memoir by Mort Zachter (reviewed by Lisa at 5 Minutes for Books)
Eat, Pray, Love by E. Gilbert (reviewed by Maw Books)
Echo Maker by R. Powers
(Reviewed by me here in 2008 and reviewed by CaribousMom)
Elizabeth and Her German Garden by Elizabeth von Arnim (reviewed by Musings)
Executioner's Song by Mailer
*Extraordinary Journey of a Desert Nomad by Waris Darie (reviewed at Maw Books)
Family Nobody Wanted by Doss
Fatal Vision by J. McGinnis
Five People You Meet in Heaven
by Mitch Albom (my review here)
Flowers by D. Gilb
Fortune Cookie Chronicles by J. Lee
Franklin and Lucy by Joseph Persico (reviewed by A Bookworm's Dinner and Ex Libris)
*German Woman, The by Paul Griner (reviewed at Bookworm's Diner)
Ghost Map
by S. Jackson
Ghost Writer, The by J. Harwood
Gilead by M. Robinson (reviewed by Semicolon)
Girl from Yamhill by Beverly Cleary (my 2009 review here)
Girl in Hyacinth Blue
by S. Vreeland (my review here)
The Girls by Lori Lansens (Reviewed on Reading, Writing, and Retirement)
**The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen (reviewed at Lesa's Book Critiques)
Girl Who Stopped Swimming by Joshilyn Jackson (reviewed by Clare at Blue Archipelago)
Giving Up the Ghost by Hilary Mantel (reviewed by Harriet Devine)
Glimpses of the Moon by Edith Wharton (reviewed by Caribous Mom)

God Is the Gospel by J. Piper
Gods and Kings series
by Lynn Austin
Gods in Alabama
by J. Jackson (my review here)
*Half Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel by Jeannette Walls (reviewed by Wisteria)
Half of a Yellow Sun by C. Adichie (my 2008 review here and reviewed by CaribousMom)
Hava: The Story of Eve
by Tosca Lee (added 1/09; reviewed by My Friend Amy)
Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
by D. Eggers
by R. Alcorn
*Her Fearful Symmetry: A Novel by Audrey Niffenegger (my review here)
*The Heretic's Daughter by Kathleen Kent (reviewed by Gautami at Reading Room)
High House, The
by James Stoddard
by John Hershey
Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow by Susan C. Bartoletti (reviewed by Natasha at Maw Books)
Hot Zone by R. Preston (reviewed by Semicolon)
House at Riverton
by K. Morton (my 2008 review here and reviewed by CaribousMom)
How Reading Changed My Life by Anna Quindlen (mentioned by The Magic Lasso)
Human Cargo by C. Moorehead
Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan (reviewed at These Words)
I Am Scout by Charles J. Shields (reviewed by Becky)
I Have Lived a Thousand Years by Livia B-Jackson (my review here)
In Country by Bobbie Ann Mason
Iris and Ruby by Rosie Thomas
by E. Southwark
Keeping the House
by E. Baker
Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain (my 2009 review here)
Last Chinese Chef by Nicole Mones (reviewed by Bookeywookey)
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger (reviewed at Thoughts of Joy)
Last Storyteller by D. Noble
Leave it to Claire
by T. Bateman
Left To Tell by Immaculee Ilibagiza (reviewed at Maw Books and Just a Reading Fool)
Liar's Club by Mary Karr (my review here)
Liar’s Diary by P. Francis (reviewed by Semicolon)
Life Among Savages
by Shirley Jackson (reviewed at Dwell in Possibility)
Life Is So Good
by R. Glaubman
Little Altars Everywhere
by R. Wells
*Little Giant of Aberdeen County
by Tiffany Baker (Reviewed at Maw Books)
Living End
by L. Samson
A Long, Long Time Ago and Essentially True by Brigid Pasulka (reviewed at The Lost Entwife)
Lost Children of Wilder by N. Bernstein
Loving Frank by N. Horan
Mad Girls in Love by M. West
Made in the U.S.A. by Billie Letts (My review here)
Man without a Country by Kurt Vonnegut
Many Sleepless Nights
by Lee Gutkind
Margaret’s Peace (Place??)
by Linda Hall
Mariner's Compass
by E. Fowler
Marley and Me
by J. Grogan
Martyr’s Song
by T. Dekker
Mater Biscuit
by J. Cannon
Mercy Falls
by WK Krueger
Minding the South
by J. Reed
by A. Brennert
*Monique and the Mango Rains by Kris Holloway (Reviewed at The Bluestocking Society)
More Than You Know by Beth Gutcheon (my 2008 review here)
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan (Reviewed by Just Another Blogger)
My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier (Reviewed by Reading to Know)
Namesake, The by Jhumpa Lahiri (My 2008 review here)
Never Let Me Go by K. Ishiguro (reviewed by Semicolon)
Not without My Daughter
by B. Mahmoody
Notes from a Small Island
by Bill Bryson
*Olive Kitteridge
by Elizabeth Strout (reviewed at Book Club Classics)
Omnivore’s Daughter
by M Pollan
On Agate Hill by Lee Smith
On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan (my 2008 review here; reviewed on The BlueStocking Society)
Only True Genius in the Family by Jennie Nash (reviewed by Natasha at Maw Books)
Other Boleyn Girl, The by P Gregory
Other Side of the Bridge
by Mary Lawson (My 2009 review here)
Other Voices, Other Rooms
by Truman Capote
The Outcast
by Sadie Jones (reviewed by Gautami at Reading Room, my review here)
Papua New Guinea: Notes from a Spinning Planet
by M. Carlson (reviewed by Clean Reads)
Paula by I. Allende (my 2009 review here)
People of the Book by G. Brooks (my review here, and reviewed by Caribous Mom and at The Magic Lasso)
Perfect Example by John Porcellino (reviewed at The Hidden Side of the Leaf)
Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (my 2009 review here)
*Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas (my review here; reviewed at Lesa's Book Critiques)
*Promise Not To Tell by Jennifer McMahon (reviewed at Missy's Book Nook)
Property by Valerie Martin (reviewed by The Magic Lasso)
Purple Hibiscus by C. Ngozi Adichie (reviewed by CaribousMom)
Quaker Summer
by Lisa Samson
Queen of the Big Time
by A. Trigiani
Quilter’s Apprentice
by J. Chiaverini
Raising Demons
by Shirley Jackson
Rise and Shine
by Anna Quindlen
Rises the Night
by C. Gleason
River King, The by Alice Hoffman (my 2008 review here)
River Wife, The by Agee
Road, The
by C. McCarthy (my 2009 review here)
Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books
by Lynne Schwartz (reviewed on Shelf Life)
by Shactman
Russian Concubine by Kate Furnivall
Saffron Kitchen, The
by Y. Crowther
Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins (reviewed by Just a Reading Fool)
Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (my 2009 review here; recommended by Gautami at Reading Room)
Saving Levi Left to Die
by Lisa Bently
Secret Between Us
by B. Delinsky (my review here)
**Secret of Everything
by Barbara O'Neal (reviewed on Lesa's Book Critiques)
Senator's Wife, The
by Sue Miller (SmallWorld review here; reviewed by Insatiable Reader)
Sentimental, Heartbroken Rednecks by Greg Bottoms (Reviewed by Sage)
Seven Loves by Trueblood
Shattered Dreams: My Life as a Polygamist's Wife by Irene Spencer (Reviewed here in 2008 at SmallWorld Reads, reviewed at Maw Books, reviewed at Nonfiction Lover )
Short Guide to a Happy Life by A. Quindlen (my 2009 review here)
Skeletons at the Feast by Chris Bohjalian (my review here and reviewed at The Magic Lasso)
* Someone Named Eva by Joan M. Wolf (reviewed at Maw Books)
Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi
Song Yet Sung
by James McBride
Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan
Soon to Be a Major Motion Picture by Donna Partow
Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down
by Anne Fadiman
by William Weld
by John Williams (suggested by JoAnn at Every Day Matters)
Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank
by Celia Rivenbark (my review here)
Summer Crossing
by Truman Capote (reviewed by CaribousMom)
by M. Cabon
Sweet Potato Queen
by J. Browne
Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas (reviewed by me here in 2008 and by Lesa at Lesa's Book Critiques)
Tea Rose, The
Teahouse Fire, The
by Ellis Avery
Stones Cry Out
by M Szymusiak
There Are No Children Here
by A. Kotlowitz
Things Fall Apart
by Chinua Achebe (my review here)
Things I Overheard While Talking to Myself
by Alan Alda
*Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher (reviewed at Gautami's Reading Room)
This Boy's Life
by Tobias Wolff
Thousand Years of Good Prayers
by Yiyun Li
Three Cups of Tea
by G. Mortenson
To My Senses
by A. Weis (reviewed by J. Kaye)
Tomorrow, the River by D. Gray
Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur
by D. Hari (reviewed by CaribousMom and Maw Books)
Trauma and Ghost Town by P. McGrath
by S. Meyer (reviewed here in 2008 at SmallWorld, reviewed by Semicolon)
Unbearable Lightness of Being by Kundera
by Margaret Haddix (reviewed by Semicolon)
Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Wednesday Sisters by Meg Waite Clayton (reviewed by Kinnic Reads)
*Well and the Mine, The by Gin Phillips (reviewed by Semicolon)
*What I Though I Knew by Alice Eve Cohen
What Is What by D. Eggers (reviewed at Maw Books)
What Peace There May Be by Susanna Brarlow
What Was Lost by Catherine O'Flynn (Reviewed at Big A, Little A)
When I Lay My Isaac Down by C. Kent
Whistling in the Dark
by L. Kagen
Who Killed My Daughter by Lois Duncan (Reviewed at Nonfiction Lover)
Winter Seeking by V. Wright
Winter Walk
by L. Cox
Winter Wheat
by Margaret Walker (my 2008 review here)
Women of the Silk
by G. Tsuriyama
Year of Living Biblically
by AJ Jacobs (reviewed by Andi Lit)
Yiddish Policeman's Union by Michael Chabon (reviewed by The Magic Lasso)

The Sunday Salon: Vacation Reading

The Sunday

Just one of the many fabulous parts of vacation is the huge amount of time I can devote to reading. Most of my vacation reading takes place during the car trip; in this case, the trip was a total of 16 hours round-trip, and I probably read for 10-12 of those hours. Dr. H. likes to listen to an audiobook; my teenager reads, sleeps, and listens to his iPod (sometimes all at the same time); and the younger two alternate between watching DVDs and playing.

Growing up, car trips were much different. For one thing, my father liked to wake us up around 2 a.m. to get started on a trip. In those days before carseats and mandatory seatbelts, we kids had the luxury of traveling with the seats folded down in the back of our big blue station wagon, sunk deep in a pile of blankets and pillows. Also, my mother heavily dosed us with Dramamine (even though we weren't prone to car sickness), so we slept pretty much the whole way, awakening every few hours for a groggy rest stop. When we did clear out of our drug-induced stupor, we sang. My parents would start with old college fight songs (University of Illinois) and head into "Clementine," "I've Been Working on the Railroad," and "Waltzing Matilda" (which I learned around age 12, by the way, is the correct title for what I always thought was "Walt and Matilda"). We rarely stopped to eat; my mother packed sandwiches, oranges, and possibly a treat or two. I desperately wanted to toss the ham sandwich out the window then in favor of McDonalds back then; now the thought of McDonalds makes me cringe.

But I digress. While I do have fond memories of traveling as a child, truthfully, we kids probably slept the majority of our trips and my mother probably sat in her seat reading while my father drove. Just like we do now. And so I managed to read four books during our four day vacation: John Grisham's The Appeal (my review here), the hilarious Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank by Celia Rivenbark (my review here), Alice McDermott's lovely Child of My Heart (my review here), and the beautiful Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson, which I've not yet reviewed. Except for the Grisham novel, the reading was exceptionally good and satisfying.

I'm now reading Mildred Walker's Winter Wheat, which so far is wonderful--very reminiscent of Willa Cather's My Antonia. This week I'm planning to get my TBR list finished and up on my blog solely so that I can have the satisfaction of publicly crossing off books as I read them. I'm not sure what that says about me, except that I'm one of those people who likes to cross things off of lists. Probably I will even list books that I've read recently for the sheer pleasure of the crossing-out process.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #111: Soar

This week's Sunday Scribbling: soar or sore


This word, this verb: to soar. It holds no attraction to me. Nietzche says, “The higher we soar, the smaller we appear to those who cannot fly.” Blake says, "No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings." All these eagles flying, all this soaring above the clouds. All these wings spread in flight.

I have never been one to soar. I never see animals in clouds or wonder what it would be like to walk on the moon. I don't marvel at flight; I don't watch the planes take off and land. Birds, though lovely, do not mesmerize me with their flight. It is the way it should be.

Give me not wings, but great scoops of earth. I wish not to soar but to lie in warm earth, or to rub red clay against my skin. I was the child searching for wild strawberries while the others spun in circles and jumped from the roof. Would I like to jump out of an airplane? No. I will be on the ground, warming my legs in the sun and watching for you.

I am small enough already.

Book Review: Child of My Heart

This is what I love about the world of book bloggers: fantastic recommendations. I read about this Alice McDermott novel over at Educating Petunia, ordered it from Paperback Swap, and brought it on vacation. I had two books in line in front of it to read, but once I got to it I could hardly put it down.

The story is of one summer in the life of 15-year-old Theresa, a capable only child whose parents moved out to Long Island in hopes of providing their daughter with a better life among the elite. Theresa becomes the town's most sought-after babysitter and pet watcher, and she takes care of the poorest kids and the richest kids with equal love and compassion. Her younger cousin, Daisy, comes to spend the summer with her, and Theresa cares for the fragile girl with grace and maturity. There are all kinds of summer dramas that Theresa must deal with in the course of all her care-taking: alcoholic fathers, absent mothers, affairs, arguments, discarded children. She weaves her way through all of these lives, keeping what she needs and storing information to use to navigate her own life.

I'd relish a sequel to this book. I'd love to know what happens to Theresa in her 20s, or even in the next summer. One particular scene with a famous artist leaves me wondering exactly what Theresa has planned for her own life and how this might differ from the life her parents have planned for her.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Book Review: Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank

It's almost embarrassing for me to read a Celia Rivenbark book because I sometimes cannot control my laughter, to the point that I am snorting and practically in need of an oxygen tank. Like We're Just Like You, Only Prettier (my review here), this book by Rivenbark is a running commentary on various absurdities in America, and, particularly, in the South. You don't have to be a Southerner, or a transplant, to appreciate Rivenbark's books, however; her satire transcends the South, and she hits on subjects ranging from parenting to ballet to cancer-smelling dogs.

On parenting: "If you ask me, the Supernanny should put the parents, not the kids, in the naughty room and not let them out until Mom promises to buy some clothes that fit and Dad can stop being such a wimp. ('Brandon calls his Mama names and I just wanna cry!') Grow a spine, you freak. It's time to 'man up'!

On ballet: "Ballet is beautiful, but I'm a new soul, incapable of appreciating scene after scene of young girls standing on their toes and mincing about and then standing on their toes and mincing about some more. And the plots? Sneaky fairies and magic feathers and stuff. Oh, just let me eat my own flesh till I quietly disappear."

On cancer-smelling dogs: "I hate to admit this, but it's obvious: Dogs have it all over my beloved but totally useless housecats. I could drive up to the house on four flat tires, with a ticking bomb and a kilo of cocaine in the trunk, tumors hanging off me as big as pie plates. and my selfish cats would just yawn, stretch, and go back to sleep."

Pulled-out of context, these quotes can't possibly do Rivenbark justice. I am really not a comedy person, but writers like Dave Barry and Celia Rivenbark send me into hysterics. And that's a fun place to be, even when it does leave the rest of my family saying, "What? What? What's so funny?" Some things you just can't explain.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

btt button

This week's Book Through Thursday asks:

Following up last week’s question about reading writing/grammar guides, this week, we’re expanding the question….

Scenario: You’ve just bought some complicated gadget home . . . do you read the accompanying documentation? Or not?
Do you ever read manuals? How-to books? Self-help guides?
Anything at all?

If you'd like to post your own response, go to Booking Through Thursday and leave a link to your actual response (so people don’t have to go searching for it) in the comments—or if you prefer, leave your answers in the comments themselves!


First of all, I don't buy complicated gadgets. Probably our telephone is the most complicated gadget I own, and yes, I did read the manual for that. And I have to re-read it if I want to know how to change the message (which is why we've had the same message for a year) or how to add people to my speed dial (which is why I always have my directory handy). I have never read the manual to the DVD player, but I used to read that sort of thing. I guess I figure between Dr. H and our teen-ager, I've got that sort of thing covered.

As for self-help books, I cannot remember the last time I would have read one. Decades? Ever? Psych classes in college? Unless, of course, parenting books count in that category. I've read plenty of those.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Book Review: The Appeal

Somebody, please, stop me next time I say I'm going to read the newest John Grisham novel! Why do I keep doing this to myself? ("Because you're an idiot," one of my favorite quotes from the 80s classic Heathers.) Here's my question: what is up with John Grisham? His first novel, A Time to Kill, was excellent. I enjoyed A Painted House, and I actually thought that his nonfiction The Innocent Man was fantastic. (Read my review here.)

But The Appeal is just like all those dozens of lawsuit novels in between A Time to Kill and The Innocent Man: bad dialogue and stereotypical characters. But what really, really bugs me about Grisham is that he constantly abuses that writers' maxim: show, don't tell. He is always telling the reader how to think in his descriptions of people and situations. If a man drinks too much and wears a wrinkled brown suit, he is questionable and probably a washed-up lawyer. On the other hand, if a man wears a sharp, expensive suit, he is likely a slimy, big-business bad guy. It's the same in all Grisham novels. If Grisham wants the reader to feel a certain way about an issue, he practically tells us (in fact, sometimes he does). He wants to make sure we get his point. Sure, Grisham can tell a great story (although the plots of these novels all run together), but there is no craft to his writing. 

Well, except in A Time to Kill, The Painted House, and The Innocent Man. He needs to study his own works.

I actually threw the book on the floor and said, "I hated this book" when I finished it today, somewhere close to our destination of Williamsburg, Virginia. So there.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Sunday Scribbling #110: Telephone

I've subscribed to Sunday Scribbling for months now but have never actually participated. The idea behind Sunday Scribbling (which must have originally been posted on Sunday) is "to provide inspiration and motivation for anyone who enjoys writing and would like a weekly challenge." Each week provides a different writing prompt. What comes from that prompt varies widely: poetry, essay, memory, flash fiction, slices of life, or just random thoughts.

Today's prompt: telephone.


To talk on the phone was all there was. In a notebook, the day’s tally: Lisa (llll lllll lll), Ros (lll), Robyn (llll llll llll llll), Janet (llll), Bryan (llll llll llll ll).

“The lake is windy” meant: “”I can’t say right now; my mother is in the room.”

You could only go as far as the cord would stretch. Your fingers play with the spiral of the cord, always your index finger tucked inside, until claustrophobia presses down too heavily. (Someday in the future there will be cordless phones, then cell phones.)

“Call me.”
“Call me.”
“Call me later.”

Lisa: colostomy, this summer.
Ros: 10 years or more, no word.
Robyn: turned into a swan
Janet: sending daughter off to college
Bryan: dead, 20 years, 7 months.

Weekly Geeks: Childhood Favorites

This is a repost of a Sunday Salon post, but it seems appropriate for this week's Weekly Geeks theme (my first): fond memories of childhood books

At 2:
Raggedy Ann and Andy and nursery rhymes

"Children are made readers on the laps of their parents."
— Emilie Buchwald

"You may have tangible wealth untold.
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be –
I had a mother who read to me."
— Strickland Gillilan

At 12:
Nancy Drew, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Blume, and the Happy Hollisters

She is too fond of books, and it has turned her brain. --Louisa May Alcott

A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog's ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins. ~Charles Lamb, Last Essays of Elia, 1833

The stories of childhood leave an indelible impression, and their author always has a niche in the temple of memory from which the image is never cast out to be thrown on the rubbish heap of things that are outgrown and outlived. ~Howard Pyle

At 22:
Vietnam, Vonnegut, and Vast Volumes of Literature and History (AKA, my senior year of college)

A good book should leave you... slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it. ~William Styron

A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul. ~Franz Kafka

At 32:
Motherhood and Graduate School

I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves. ~Anna Quindlen,

Far more seemly were it for thee to have thy study full of books, than thy purse full of money. ~John Lyly

At 42:
Books by Day for Them, Books by Night for Me

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks,
And all the sweet serenity of books.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life. ~Mark Twain

Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Sunday Salon: Housewarming

This isn't my first Sunday Salon, but it is the first one here on SmallWorld Reads. I decided I needed a separate space for my reading life, as the books were crowding out my regular blog. In my real life—although I think about, read about, and talk about books a lot—I really only read in the evenings after the kids are in bed. (Well, except for all the reading I do with the kids.) So this is my after-hours, evening space now, devoted entirely to reading and writing. I am slowly working on transferring my book reviews over here, but that will likely take awhile.

In the meantime, I finished Susan's Breen's The Fiction Class this week. I was pleasantly surprised by this book that I pulled off the library shelf without a recommendation. Here is my review.

I'm taking full advantage of Mother's Day today. I've already read a few chapters of John Grisham's The Appeal and taken a nap. When I woke up from my nap, I thought about Li-Young Lee's book of poetry, Rose. I thought I remembered a poem he'd written about his mother. Of course I had to read the whole collection because you can't stop reading Li-Young Lee. The poem I was thinking about is called "Early in the Morning," in which Lee describes the ritual of his mother's hair pinning:

Early in the Morning

While the long grain is softening
in the water, gurgling
over a low stove flame, before
the salted Winter Vegetable is sliced
for breakfast, before the birds,
my mother glides an ivory comb
through her hair, heavy
and black as calligrapher's ink.

She sits at the foot of the bed.
My father watches, listens for
the music of comb
against hair.

My mother combs,
pulls her hair back
tight, rolls it
around two fingers, pins it
in a bun to the back of her head.
For half a hundred years she has done this.
My father likes to see it like this.
He says it is kempt.

But I know
it is because of the way
my mother's hair falls
when he pulls the pins out.
Easily, like the curtains
when they untie them in the evening.

-- Li-Young Lee, ©1986

I love this book, and while the relationship between Lee's mother and father does play prominently throughout, it is the memory of his father that graces nearly every poem, unifying the whole collection. I was first introduced to the poetry of Li-Young Lee in graduate school, and during my time in graduate school he did a reading at the university. I loved the way he read his poems, clearly, softly, lyrically, exactly like his written voice. His imagery is powerful, his language precise and beautiful. My favorite in Rose is called "From Blossoms." For me, growing up in orchards, this poem is the perfect expression of a joyful life:

From Blossoms

From blossoms comes
this brown paper bag of peaches
we bought from the boy
at the bend in the road where we turned toward
signs painted Peaches.

From laden boughs, from hands,
from sweet fellowship in the bins,
comes nectar at the roadside, succulent
peaches we devour, dusty skin and all,
comes the familiar dust of summer, dust we eat.

O, to take what we love inside,
to carry within us an orchard, to eat
not only the skin, but the shade,
not only the sugar, but the days, to hold
the fruit in our hands, adore it, then bite into
the round jubilance of peach.

There are days we live
as if death were nowhere
in the background; from joy
to joy to joy, from wing to wing,
from blossom to blossom to
impossible blossom, to sweet impossible blossom.

- Li-Young Lee ©1986

And so. I'm off for a short vacation to Colonial Williamsburg this week, which means a long car trip with Dr. H. driving, the kids watching DVDs, and me reading. I've got a good stack of books to bring with me: The Appeal (Grisham), Paula (Isabel Allende), Astrid and Veronika (Linda Olsson), Kitchen Confidential (Anthony Bourdain), Stop Dressing Your Six-Year-Old Like a Skank (Celia Rivenbark), Winter Wheat (M. Walker) and New Stories from the South: 2007. I'm so glad I don't get car sick!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Book Review: The Fiction Class

This isn't something that happens to me very often: I was browsing the "new arrivals" shelves at the library a couple of weeks ago while the kids had a snack in the cafe, and I pulled out this book by Susan Breen. I almost stuck it back on the shelf, thinking about the stack of to-be-read books already by my bed, but I was intrigued.

And then I was so happy when I finished reading the mentally taxing Jayber Crow and started in with The Fiction Class. What an excellent book this turned out to be! The story centers on Arabella, a struggling writer who teaches an evening writing class to adults; the writing class itself; and on Arabella and her mother. Each chapter focuses on an aspect of writing: character, plot, theme, etc. and how this relates to Arabella, her class, and her mother. Breen's writing is concise and matter-of-fact, and I like that. The characters are well-rounded and somehow quite familiar, and I like that. Sometimes, being a small-town girl, I find it difficult to relate to novels that feature New York City-types; but Breen's characters could have been transported to anywhere and still made sense to me. (And here I need to clarify that, although I did indeed grow up in New York, I grew up in a small town upstate, which has little if no similarity to New York City except perhaps in the abundance of excellent pizza and wings.)

I loved that the actual writing assignments are included at the end of each chapter. For example, the writing assignment for point of view:

Think about a family gathering: a holiday, a birthday, a funeral. Write about that gathering in the first person from the point of view of a child.
I wished for chunks of time to do each assignment myself. Perhaps I will make that time soon. I did a little searching about the book because I wondered if somewhere in the blogosphere there might be a place where people are doing Breen's exercises on their blogs. I haven't found that yet, but I did find Susan Breen's blog and was inspired to see the tagline on her blog: "publishing a first novel after 25 years of marriage, 4 children, and hundreds of rejections." (Couldn't I at least turn out my poetry chapbook in the next 6 years?)

Turns out that Breen has a monthly contest at her website where she asks for submissions on a certain topic. For the April/May contest, she asks: Write a story using this as the first sentence: “Why are you wearing that?” The winner receives a free autographed copy of her book. Will I submit an entry to this or any future contests on Breen's website? Perhaps. And if a book can pull me out of my writing stupor and inspire me to actually write more than a daily blog, well. That says a lot.

But the books isn't just for writers or writing teachers. This is just a great book, and I hope to see more by Susan Breen.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Book Review: Jayber Crow

Yes, I am celebrating: I finally finished reading Wendell Berry's Jayber Crow. I am pretty sure that I deserve something: a bag of caramels, some Marble Slab ice cream, or a check for $1000.

Honestly, I am stumped as to how to review this book. I mean, check out this introduction to the book on
The questions who and what and how and why are no doubt useful and occasionally even noble in their place. But for Wendell Berry, whose spare and elegant prose has long testified to the rural American values of thrift and frugality, four interrogatives must seem a waste, when one will do. Where is the ultimate qualifier, the sine qua non, for both the author and his characters. Place shapes them and defines them; the winding Kentucky River and the gentle curves of the Kentucky hills find an echo in their lilting speech and brusque affections.
I don't even know what that means. First of all, I would not use the adjective "spare" to describe Wendell Berry's writing. Elegant, yes. Spare, no. Hemingway is spare. Faulkner is expansive. Berry lies closer to Faulkner on that scale. Berry's writing is carefully, beautifully, even majestically crafted; this is the ultimate poetic novel. One reviewer on writes: "This book is about many things, but should be read mostly for the sake of experiencing Berry's really fine writing." I absolutely second that assessment. Berry offers profound insights and wisdom wrapped in exquisite language. Really, the character of Jayber Crow himself, former barber of the tiny Port William, is tertiary.

The story itself, on the basic plot level, is about the life of Jayber Crow and the rural town of Port William. But overriding this is the theme of what is lost with progress, and what is found in community. Living in an area that is forever being eaten by machinery, I know the ache of losing quiet beauty to big houses and faster ways of getting places. When you see the countryside bleeding red soil from its great gashes around here, you know how this is:
More than television, the interstate brought the modern world into Port William. More even than The Economy and The War, it carried the people of Port William into the modern world. It was a thing of unimaginable influence. People in Port William would find it handy to drive to work or to shop in Louisville. And Louisville would find it handy to grow farther out into the countryside. City lots would be carved out of farms, raising of course the price of farmland, so that urban people could enjoy the spaciousness of rural life while looking evening and morning at the rear ends of one another's automobiles.
And Berry surprised me with his insights into Christianity. I knew he advocated stewardship of the earth; I didn't know that he was tagged as a contemporary Christian writer. It was in the last half of this novel that Jayber Crow's spiritual journey becomes more pronounced, and I began folding down pages. Like Harper Lee in the magnificent To Kill a Mockingbird, Berry disposes of religious legalism and emphasizes the relational qualities taught by Christ: take care of one another. Love your neighbor. Breathe deeply.
On Sunday mornings I go up to ring the bell and sit through the service. I don't attend altogether for religious reasons. I feel more religious, in fact, here beside this corrupt and holy stream. I am not sectarian or evangelical. I don't want to argue with anybody about religious. I wouldn't want to argue about it even if I thought it was arguable, or even if I could win. I'm a literal reader of the Scriptures, and so I see the difficulties. And yet every Sunday morning I walk up here, over a cobble of quibbles. I am, I suppose a difficult man. I am, maybe, the ultimate Protestant, the man at the end of the Protestant road, for as I have read the Gospels over the years, the belief has grown in me that Christ did not come to found an organized religion but came instead to found an unorganized one. He seems to have come to carry religion out of the temples into the fields and sheep pastures, onto the roadsides and banks of rivers, into the houses of sinners and publicans, into the town and the wilderness, toward the membership of all that is here. Well, you can read and see what you think.
Brilliant. And the exquisite poetry: cobble of quibbles! Berry is remarkable, and yet I can't say I truly enjoyed this novel. My personal assessment is I need Berry in smaller does than a 360-page novel. I need to read Berry more as a poet and an essayist, and perhaps as a short story writer, before I tackle another of his novels. He's too enormous for this season of my life, in which my reading is limited to an hour in the evening, when I often can scarcely stay awake. He deserves a more careful audience.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Poetry for Children

Whatever you do, find ways to read poetry. Eat it, drink it, enjoy it, and share it.”
~Eve Merriam

A commenter asked me a couple of weeks ago for suggestions for poetry to read to children. Before I list my favorite books written specifically for children, let me emphasize that you don't have to stick with "kids' poetry" when reading to your children. In other words, some poets write specifically for a younger audience--much of Jack Prelutsky, for example. But poetry doesn't have to rhyme and be about cute kitties or dog poop to appeal to children (although rhyming bodily functions certainly can heighten a child's appreciation of poetry).

Along those lines, I highly recommend A Treasury of Poetry for Young People. This contains poems selected with a younger audience (5th grade and up) in mind by some of the best-known poets: Carl Sandburg, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, Walt Whitman and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. There is a two or three page introduction of each author before his/her section of poetry. The illustrations are simple and beautiful. Notes at the bottom of each page give a very brief commentary on each poem. For example, at the end of the familiar Frost poem "The Road Not Taken," the note simply states: "We all know the feel of a cool autumn day, when we can shuffle our feet through fallen leaves and kick up the smells of the season. This is a poem about such a walk, about coming to a fork in the path, and about making choices in our lives."

For a wider variety of poets, I recommend the Poetry for Young People Series. These books are also published by Sterling Publishing, like the one above, but each books features a different poet. Scholastic often has these titles in their monthly sale fliers for home or school. Featured authors include: Robert Browning, Langston Hughes, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and all the ones mentioned above.

One more collection I really love for kids: The Oxford Illustrated Book of American Children's Poems, edited by Donald Hall. This one takes a chronological approach to American poetry, beginning with the Native American cradle song, "Chant to the Fire-Fly" and ending with the contemporary poetry of Sandra Cisneros and Janet S. Wong. I love the diversity offered in this collection: poetry isn't all written by white guys and reclusive women. And one of my personal favorites is included here: Nikki Giovanni's "Knoxville, Tennessee." Even if you don't live around these parts, you and your children can surely relate to Giovanni's ode to the pure bliss of summertime.

Of course, you can get out your old copy of The Norton Anthology of Poetry and just pick out age-appropriate poems from some of the world's best poets of all time. What? You don't have an old Norton's Anthology? Run to your nearest used bookstore or Goodwill and pick one up. Please. You never know when you might need to read T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock":
I grow old. . . . I grow old . . .
I shall wear the bottoms of my trouser rolled.
Shall I part my hair behind? Do I dare to eat a peach?
I shall wear white flannel trousers, and walk upon the beach.
I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each.
I do not think they will sing to me.
But I digress. Moving on to poetry written specifically for children, I must present my four favorites: Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky, Eve Merriam, and Valerie Worth. Does anyone not know Shel Silverstein's works? Silverstein, who died in 1999, is the king of children's poetry. His website is great fun, and you can read all about his works there. You local library will have every book; better yet, buy at least a couple. No family library can possibly be complete with A Light in the Attic or Where the Sidewalk Ends. If your kids hear the word "poetry" and cover their ears, try reading "Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout Would Not Take the Garbage Out' to them. They will want to hear more.

Jack Prelutsky also has a gift for luring children in with the absurd. He knows how to engage children with the silly, absurd, and irresistibly disgusting:
Slime, slime,
Savory slime,
you're luscious and succulent
any old time,
there's hardly a thing
that is nearly as grand
as a dollop of slime
in the palm of my hand.

Prelutsky also has a great website, where you can read all about him and his books and get teaching ideas, too.

The poet Eve Merriam loved language--loved the sound of words alone and in combination with other words. When I read her poetry, I imagine how carefully she chose each word. From her widely anthologized "Lullaby":
Purple as a king's cape
Purple as a grape.

Purple for the evening
When daylight is leaving.

Soft and purry,

Gentle and furry,

Velvet evening-time.
I have a cassette tape of Merriam reading some of her poetry; when my oldest was little, this was one of his favorites. Check out your local library or for poetry by Eve Merriam, including You Be Good and I'll Be Night and A Sky Full of Poems.

VOne last poet who might be less familiar but who also takes great care in crafting poetry: Valerie Worth. In the wonderful All the Small Poems and Fourteen More, Worth turns every day things--animal, vegetable and mineral--into exquisite works of art. This is a fantastic collection for teaching personification, metaphor and simile, and for emphasizing the power of observation and the craft of language.
The sun
is a leaping fire
too hot
to go near,
But it will still
lie down
in warm yellow squares
on the floor
lie a flat
quilt, where
the cat can curl
and purr.

This is just a tiny taste of the wonderful feast that is the world of poetry. Surf the internet and shuffle through the library bookshelves. If you had a bad experience with poetry in your own schooling, try again--with your child. I promise, you'll both find something you love.