Thursday, March 3, 2011

author's corner and Wednesday gratitude

A few weeks ago we finished The Cricket in Times Square (1960, George Seldon).  Previously I gave an incorrect level for this book.  It's leveled at 4.9, not 7th grade.  (4.9 stands for 4th grade, 9th month.)

My Paul and I cried at the end, over the bittersweet parting of the three New York friends, Tucker the Mouse, Harry the Cat, and Chester the Cricket. The story was beloved by all; when we finished the last page, it felt as though a best friend moved away.

The next night we began The Pilgrim's Progress, A Modern Abridgment (valuebooks, 1998 by Barbour Publishing).  Here are interesting facts about Bunyan's famous literary work, from the foreward of the valuebooks version:

The Pilgrim's Progress has been printed, read, and translated more often than any book other than the Bible.  
John Bunyan was born in 1628 in the village of Elstow, England.  His father was a tinker, a lowly occupation. Nevertheless, his father sent him to school, to learn to read and write.
In 1674 Bunyan married an orphan who was a praying Christian.  She led her husband to the Lord, and he was baptized.  Bunyan soon began to preach but was arrested and thrown into prison for preaching without receiving permission from the established church.  He remained there for twelve years, during which time he wrote this book. 
My intention was to read this easier version to the boys--a mere 92 pages--so they would know the story, and then have them listen to an audio version of the book in original verse form, next year, followed in later years by assigning the original as personal reading.  The verse is beautiful, memorable, and a must read, but a little much for their present maturity level.

Halfway through the valuebooks version, however, some of the characters from the allegory scared the boys, especially Peter, so it become problematic reading, especially before bedtime.  For now, we abandoned it.

Next we turned to author William Steig, and his 1976 Newberry Honor masterpiece, Abel's Island (book level 5.9).  Though personally William Steig was a mess, professionally, he was quite the genius.  After a famous run as a cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine, Steig began writing children's books in 1968, at the age of 61.  His most famous literary works include Sylvester and the Magic PebbleAbel's Island and Doctor De Soto. He also created the character Shrek.

Steig loved the written word, as illustrated by this excerpt from Abel's Island:

Rain caused one to reflect on the shadowed, more poignant parts of life--the inescapable sorrows, the speechless longings, the disappointments, the regrets, the cold miseries.  It also allowed one the leisure to ponder questions unasked in the bustle of brighter days; and if one were snug under a sound roof, as Abel was, one felt somehow mothered, though mothers were nowhere around, and absolved of responsibilities.  Abel had to cherish his dry log. 

At night, when it cleared up, he went out in the wet grass and watched the young moon vanishing behind cloud and reappearing, over and over, like a swimmer out on the sea.  

I love the language, the quality of the writing, the maturity and richness of the storyline.  It isn't just the tale of a high-class mouse lost on a deserted island.  Abel, the main character, changes profoundly during his break from privileged, civilized life.  It's a courageous coming-of-age story--perfect for boys--even though Abel is an adult, already married one year, when the story begins.  We're now halfway through the novel and thoroughly enjoying Steig's genius.

Now for some gratitude!

Wednesday Gratitude:

- For a new GE gas range; that there was money in bank for the stove when we really needed it.  Delivery and hook up happens on Friday.  The kids are more excited than the adults!  The other night I waited one hour for our ancient oven to preheat to 350 degrees for my shepherd's pie.  Dinner was an hour late, consequently.  I called husband and said it was time (we'd waited five years, as it got progressively worse).

- For my first robin sighting.  Spring is in the air, though tonight it will be 11 degrees.

- A nice, down-to-earth, non-commission salesman, telling me just the facts--allowing us to get the best, most inexpensive stove for our needs.

- A Christian husband, strong when I'm not

- Psalms at breakfast

- Little girls praying

- Cuddling through two Curious George stories with my Mary and my Paul.  Love that sweet monkey--and my cuddly kiddos!

- For hard times, so Matthew 6:25-34 comes to life in my heart.

- For being an imperfect mother and knowing it--sending me to my knees for strength, wisdom, agape love

- A humbling life, rather than a privileged one.

- Four healthy--and sometimes unruly--children.

- Boys who love the written word, and sharing it with their Momma.

- An imperfect, very-lined face, further humbling me and reminding me to be gentle and quiet.

- The promise of more wisdom in the coming, riper years.

- For a God who gives me enough information only for today--enough sustenance for today--so I can learn to live in the moment, and not in the tomorrows.

- For the Holy Spirit, who helps me identify my weaknesses day by day--reminding me that only through Him am I refined.

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