Reading at Breakfast

As I got up from the table this morning to carry my plate into the kitchen, I glanced back over my shoulder. Both of the littles are sitting at the table, their breakfasts half-eaten, absorbed in Little Golden Books. I’m not thrilled that they keep forgetting to eat, but I love, love, love the fact that my almost-four-year-old and two-year-old find books so delightful that they lose track of everything else.

(Apologies for the blurriness. The lighting in my dining room isn’t the best, and if I use the flash they both squinch up their eyes.)

These books I picked up at the Borders liquidation sale on Saturday. The girls had been so good about staying close to us through the crowds, and waiting for us to go through the rows of books in which there was little or no order, and besides, if Mamma and Papa are coming out with armfuls of books, shouldn’t they, too?
(Admittedly, most of the books I bought were preschool workbooks to use with Joy this fall, but I did pick up a couple for myself.)
Joy helped me pick the books out, because Grace was assisting Carl with all his philosophy books. Joy chose “Baby Farm Animals” and “The Jolly Barnyard,” and I snagged “The Color Kittens” because I remember reading that at my grandparents’ house and I want them to delight in it, too (Hush and Brush!).
My parents used to buy my sister and me Little Golden Books at the grocery store. Not every time, but frequently as a “just because” purchase. Our grandparents and aunts and uncles helped fill our shelves with more. So far, my littles have only gotten board book versions or some of my smaller ones that I’ve passed to them, so these were their first picked-off-the-shelf, carry-to-the-register, read-in-the-car-on-the-way-home Little Golden Books.
And I thrill to see them, even though they can’t read the words yet, already finding such happiness in these classic tales. I hope, in five to ten years, to have shelves full of Little Golden Books, just as I did when I was a girl. And maybe someday, they’ll have the delight of putting one of these very same books in the hands of their child and saying,
“I loved this one when I was little.”
Did you grow up on Little Golden Books? Which one was your favorite? I always love anything with illustrations by Eloise Wilkins. Does it give you a thrill to pass books that you loved as a child down to children now? Have you gone to Borders recently, and if so, did you find it as sad as I did?

Everyday Stories

Adrienne made a comment on one of my recent posts about the sad dearth of ordinary stories about ordinary people – the likes of which were written by LM Montgomery, Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, etc. Considering that I just recently wrote on how important fantasy is, it might seem odd that I now turn around in defense of “ordinary tales,” but I truly do believe both are vital.

Fantasy can help to expand us, help us see beyond ourselves to the possibilities that exist in our dreams and imagination. Everyday stories, I think, help to ground us, and to show us the beauty and joy that comes from just living, just as we are now. Both, in their own way, show us the magic that exists all around us.

I can’t imagine growing up without Anne Shirley, Betsy Ray, Garnet of the wheat-colored braids, and as I grew older, Rilla, Lizzy Bennet, Anne Elliot, and Molly Gibson. Et cetera, et cetera.

There’s a big emphasis I see these days in people thinking that one has to already be special in order to do or accomplish anything special, or have a worthwhile life (running contradictory to the other popular idea, which is that “everyone is special,” and which also produces laziness, but that’s a topic for another time). There was a lot that I disliked in the recent movie version of Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but one of the things that drove me nuts the most was a tiny little throwaway line from Reepicheep, where he tells the dragon-that-was-Eustace,

“Things like this don’t happen to just anybody, you know. You’ve got to be someone extraordinary.”

(Or something like that. I don’t remember the exact quote.)

It made me want to scream, right there in the theater, because that’s not true and it’s not how Lewis wrote Eustace. I hate that we seem to be living in a time that believes you have to be born “different,” somehow, for your life to have meaning. And right now, in MG and YA lit, that “different” usually does equal mystical or supernatural.

And that, I think, it a dreadful use of the fantasy genre. I would much rather read about Anne Shirley, overcoming an incredibly difficult and mundane birth and early life to live a life of simple grace, love, and beauty (one of my all-time favorite quotes ever is from Anne of Avonlea (or is it Anne of the Island?), where she tells Gilbert her life’s goal is to add beauty to the world and people’s lives, that they might have some joy or hope that they wouldn’t have had otherwise), then about what’s-her-name from the book whose title is synonymous with dusk, who whines and mopes and finally becomes a bloodsucker in truth as well as metaphorically. What’s inspirational about that, again?

And I think it will be a true shame if this generation grows up only reading books that reinforce the idea that it takes something supernatural to make you special, that you can’t live a meaningful or exciting life if you don’t have fangs or wings or both.

Life – just as it is, in reality – is both beautiful and exciting, and always meaningful, if we are just willing to look hard and work at it. We can’t just sit back and allow life to pass us by because “we weren’t born special.” We don’t need a prophecy told about us at birth to enable us to achieve great things.

Everyday stories, about every people living everyday lives, can be just as inspirational, and for me, at least, have been an enormous help in finding joy in life just as it is, just as fantasy helps me seek even deeper into the beauty and wonder of life.

Do you like reading “everyday stories”? What books can you think of, about ordinary people and ordinary life, have helped you develop and grow as a human being? Can you think of some recent titles in YA that are those sort of everyday stories? I’m drawing a blank, myself!

Writing Room

My parents are in the midst of remodeling their house (FINALLY! After 20 years!), so this vacation we’re staying at my grandmother’s house, across the driveway. Granted, she’s remodeling too, but she at least has three usable bedrooms. After Carl left (he has to work the rest of this week, but the littles and I are staying to play for a bit longer), I moved upstairs so Gram could have her room, with the only double bed, back.

The walls are pale fawn, the ceiling slants down on one side, there’s a window overlooking the tangled trees which are currently blocking the pond, but will be trimmed back eventually. There’s a little white bed and a bookcase. My very first thought, as I dumped the suitcase beside the bed, was: “This is the perfect writing room.”

(My second thought was that it looked like an Anne of Green Gables room, but that’s slightly irrelevant to this topic.)

I could just see myself set up at a little desk by the window, looking out at the trees for inspiration (most likely with my chin propped on my hand), and then tapping furiously at my keyboard, producing a story in the shortest time ever.

It won’t happen – for one thing, there’s no desk. For another, I have two littles who never let me have that much time to myself. But it was nice to imagine.

At home, I write wherever and whenever I get a few spare moments. It’s one of the reasons I love my laptop so. Kitchen counter, dining room table, Carl’s desk, the easy chair with my legs up on the footrest, in bed … sometimes even on the floor. And it works, but I would love, someday, to have a room which is set aside just for writing, where everything has been planned around and is conducive to the creative process. One that I don’t have to share with the main life of the family!

Do you have a room or space set aside just for writing? What does your perfect writing room look like?