Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Books from 2009

When I was in college, I started writing the year and month in the corner of the books I read. It helped me remember what was going on in my life while I read the book. I think it was my way of intertwining my life with the characters and the plot of the stories.

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein reminds me of the early days of 1998 when I was trying to grasp Wordsworth and Byron while eating gummy worms and drinking hot chocolate and coffee (I called it "the poor man's mocha") in a carrel at Calvin's library. I always chose the same carrel because my dad told me to find a place to study that wasn't my room. I can't remember if he told me to go to the same place every time or if it's just what I ended up doing, but the carrel - my carrel - became a special place for me. I read and wrote a lot there, and when Frankenstein and his monster entered my world, I did a lot of thinking about what it means to be responsible for what it is we create.

Toni Morrison's Beloved reminds me of the days when Michigan liked to tease us with warm spring weather, then slam us with a snowstorm. I remember one particular Monday when it took me an hour to get to my 9am American Lit. class because it was snowing so hard. Just two days before the weather was so warm I was wearing flip flops and reading Beloved on the roof of the house I shared with four friends. "Saturday we thought we were all going to the beach." my professor said when he walked into the classroom.

Like Frankenstein, Beloved was a tough read, and I struggled not just with understanding the stories, but also the content in them. I love both books, however, because they stretched and challenged me. "Anything coming back to life hurts." I wrote down in my notebook with a shaky hand one morning in American Lit. It was something my prof had said while we were discussing Beloved. I remember being startled by this comment, but also thinking maybe that's what good literature does - hurt you a little, but bring you back to life.

When my Grandma Ayanoglou died, I took a few of her books and found out she'd dated some of the books she read as well. She read A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 by Phillip Keller in 1974. I wondered if someone gave this to her, or if she bought it at a bookstore. She didn't write anything in the margins or leave any notes inside the book, but she did use a picture of my cousin Todd as a bookmark, and she underlined several passages. One that I liked is, "...with genuine gratitude and exaltation I can exclaim proudly, just as David did, 'The Lord is my shepherd!' and I'm thrilled to belong to Him, for it is thus that I shall flourish and thrive no matter what life may bring to me."

The books Hadley and I read together this year didn't bring about too much discussion of topics like the ones above, but when I took down her bookworm from 2009, a lot of memories popped up as I perused the titles.

I remember that the book Yo! Yes? by Chris Raschka helped Hadley figure out when to use "you" and when to use "me." I checked the book out of the library because I thought it was a cute story showing how two boys become friends, but Hadley, studying the pictures so carefully as she always does, picked up on the difference between "you" and "me." Something I was having a hard time showing her. One day she walked into the living room and pointed to me and said, "You," and then pointed to herself and said, "Me!" It was exactly like what the kid did in the book.

We read The Monster at the End of this Book Starring Grover and Hats for Sale by Esphyr Slobokina, two of my favorites when I was a kid. I can still remember being nervous reading about the alleged monster Grover was talking about, and I can still see my mom's finger shaking in the air as she said, "Tsk, Tsk, Tsk" like the monkeys in Hats for Sale.

In early June we made a trip to Chicago and my mom brought some books home for Hadley from the library. Her favorite one of the bunch was Gladys Goes Out to Lunch by Derek Anderson. Gladys, a gorilla (I think I remember she is purple), leaves the zoo to go out to lunch and is lured back by the smell of banana bread. Hadley's favorite part was the part when Gladys eats an ice-cream cone. I don't think she thought Gladys made the wise decision in choosing banana bread over ice-cream.

I picked out Here Comes the Train by Charlotte Voake in hopes that Hadley would get over her fear of the loud noises the train that Jesse comes in on makes. It didn't work so well, but she did enjoy the book. That same month, July, we read Splash! by Ann Jonas and What Happens on Wednesdays by Emily Jenkins. Hadley liked counting all the critters that jumped in and out of the pond in Splash!, and I know she liked What Happens on Wednesdays because she requested it a lot during the time we had it checked out of the library. However, I think I enjoyed it the most. It captures the routines of a family with a young child so romantically and matches what we do so closely that it felt like I was reading a story about us.

We went through a Clifford phase for awhile in 2009. I think Hadley's preschool teacher read Clifford books because she came home talking about it one day, so we went to the library to get some books so we could get to know the big red dog. We checked out Clifford the Big Red Dog, Count on Clifford, and Clifford's First Day of School all by Norman Bridwell. I think Hadley was intrigued by a dog as large as Clifford. Intrigued in a "there aren't really dogs that big" sort of way.

I think one of Hadley's all time favorite books in 2009 was I Love Planes! by Philemon Sturges. The plot is pretty simple. A boy talks about all the different kinds of planes he loves, but Hadley studied the planes day after day. She looked for them when we went outside. She asked what kind of plane we would be flying on when we go to Chicago. "Will we be riding on a jumbo jet or a dive bomber?"

Before I had Hadley, I was excited to read books like Bridge to Teribithia or Ella Enchanted. I still look forward to the time when both Hadley and Harper are ready for these kinds of stories. But I've been enjoying reading these other stories just as much because they get Hadley excited over things that I take for granted. Now I see them with the eyes of a three year old who's full of wonder. It makes me full of wonder, too. Maybe in a more subtle way, these books bring me back to life as well.

I think what's exciting about reading books is that I believe you are different after having read them. I am pretty confident that I'll never be able to teach my girls how to knit or sew, or even hem for that matter. But I hope I can pass on the importance of reading to them, and even if Hadley doesn't see the difference reading is making in her life, I can see it. And recording it down for her is one thing I can do to help us remember the times we spent reading books in 2009.