Monday, December 3, 2007

Books I Read With Em in 2007

It's December, and you know what that means. Oh, wait. You only know what that means if you used to read my old, no-longer-owned-by-me blog. So, instead, let me tell you what it means. It means that I am about to embark on a multi-post recounting of the books I read (or heard as audiobooks) in the last 12 months.

I'm going to start with the books that Em and I read together this year. (And by together I mean a literal back-and-forth--sometimes page-by-page, sometimes section-by-section, sometimes until-one-of-our-voices-starts-to-give-out.) There are only a small handful in this list, because we really only get to read every other night--with nights off for sleepovers (hers) and deadlines (mine) and trips (hers and mine) and those times when she's engrossed in whatever book she's reading on her own, and wants to use her bedtime reading time to progress on that end instead.*

Still, good things come in short lists. Or something like that. So, without further ado...
  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engel: Reading this book with your child is a singular, not-to-be-missed experience. I cannot think of a single work of children's fiction that is this rich and intelligent and intense. (I'd say that it blows Harry Potter away, except I haven't read Harry Potter, so it would be kind of a stupid thing to say. I'm seriously considering reading the series, though, just so I can say it without sounding stupid.) We were both absolutely swept up in this story--me for the umpteenth time, Em for the first. All I can say is that the promise, the imagining of this kind of reading and sharing experience with my child is what made me want to be a parent. [BTW, we started and finished this well before L'Engel died this year; in fact, we'd already begun reading A Wind in the Door (see below) when her death was announced. It was touching, however, how much it affected much this woman, who Em had never even heard of a year before, had come to mean to her.]
  • Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume: Did I say that reading A Wrinkle in Time with your child was a singular, not-to-be-missed experience? Reading Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret with your 9-year-old daughter is an equally singular, not-to-be-missed experience. There is nothing as sweet as being snuggled up under a comforter with the child who used to be your baby but is now, um, developing into something very much Not Baby, and giggling hysterically and in unison at "We must...We must...We must increase our bust." Nothing. You must do it, you who have pre-pubertal or newly pubertal girls. I insist. You can thank me later. (By the way...I had remembered all the puberty stuff, but had almost completely blanked on the fact that much of the book is about her search for faith and religion and a sense of belonging. It's really quite a rich book, and that surprised me. The intensity with which Em enjoyed it was not a surprise, though it did please me deeply.)
  • Ida B by Katherine Hannigan: There's a funny-to-me-only story behind why we read this book, having to do with a friend who has a kid a year ahead of Em recommending it to us...except actually meaning to recommend So B. It (see below) instead. As we read this book--a sweet book about schooling both at home and not, and about a young girl dealing with her mother's illness--I kept wondering where the part about the mentally challenged mother was, or the part where the girl goes on a journey by herself, as that friend had mentioned. In any case, we both really enjoyed the book, which ultimately swept us both up, even if it wasn't what I was expecting.
  • So B. It by Sarah Weeks: All I can say is that this book almost literally ripped my heart out. Em had to do all the reading for the last couple of chapters, because I couldn’t even get the words out. I sobbed so hard we both wound up laughing. I was a mess. It was a wonderful book, though I would warn any parent out there to make sure you read it with your kid, especially if she’s a preteen. There are some tough topics in there, and some emotionally difficult areas, and even though in our case it was Em who had to hold MY hand through the ending, I think it helped her to have me there, too. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself to assuage my ego. (And yes, I read lots of reviews from people who were wholly unimpressed with this book. I don't care. I loved it, and it broke my heart.)
  • A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engel: This book is hard. There is vocabulary in here that challenged me, much less my 10-year-old kid. And the concepts. This is work-your-brain-and-hard literature. I don't think it's as effective or as transformative as A Wrinkle in Time, but even at her not-as-effective, L'Engel is better than 90 percent of the writers out there, and 98 percent of the writers of kids' books. We both cried at the end for Proginoskes, but then grinned through our tears to find Charles Wallace's oxygen tank already stowed in the corner of the room. We have our next two books picked out (first up: Anne of Green Gables; then either Little Women or Number the Stars, depending on our mood), but after that, Em wants to slot in A Swiftly Tilting Planet. "I don't want to be away from this family for too long," she told me. Me neither.
*Fear not, those who are interested in the reading choices of a just-arrived tween. I convinced her to keep a list of her reading this year, and I'm hoping to convince her to write up a line or two about each one and let me put it on my blog in addition to getting her to post it on hers.


po said...

How very wonderful! An incredible, always-remember-it-for-the-rest-of-your-life tradition.

Matthew read the whole Time Quartet and really enjoyed them! He was moving on to the next series, about Meg's daughter, but then luckily I happened to read some synopses and saw that there are some VERY adult themes in it (child molestation and teenage sex), so I suggested that he wait on that one!

Meg said...

Thanks TC. Alas, I have no girls so the Judy Blume is out but "A Wrinkle in Time" is definitely one of my favorites. Agree with Po on the Austin family books. Loved the first two, but as a teen. The later books (in both series) were not as good.

Maddy said...

Well I'll see if I can find some of those in the library on my visit today.
This is my calling card or link"Whittereronautism"until blogger comments get themselves sorted out.

Green said...

I can not imagine doing this at all - I would have hated reading with my mother once I could read on my own.

Are You There God was a great book - I really liked the part where she went to confession. Has Em read Starring Sally J Freeman as Herself yet or whatever it's called? I liked that book around the same time.

Mary said...

I adored Wrinkle in Time as a kid, and have tried to interest my boys in it, with no luck. Thanks for reminding me it's time to try again with my Em. Do read Harry Potter. I am picky about my literature, and I love those books so much.

Susan said...

Sabrina and I read A Wrinkle in Time together this year, too. We had such a good time. We havne't found a good read together books since, but I think I will pick up Are you There God, It's Me, Margaret soon. I love snuggling with her and reading together.