Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Oh, The Books You Will Read!

One of the highlights of my day is always reading the kids their night-night book. I love it, and as my oldest one gets older--and more able to comprehend meatier stuff--I find myself eagerly looking for interesting things to integrate into the boiling pot of his personal mythos.

We started out with Sarah Boynton and Dr. Seuss, we graduated into the Owl and the Pussycat, Steig and De Paolo (Amos and Boris is one of the best written children's stories ever , and 'The Knight and the Dragon' is hard to beat), and now are exploring the wonderful universes of Captain Underpants, Nate the Great, and any anthology of myths and folktales I can get my grubby little hands on. The kids seem to enjoy themselves, and the people at work seem pretty impressed when I tell them I read maybe three, four books a night, all the way through.

A surprising development of the continuation of this Troxell family tradition (started by my mother), is how often I find myself surpassing the dozen or so books of maxims, theology, philosophy, and general worldly wisdom that I've devoured over the past few years, in order to find some kind of resonance in something out of 'Oh,the Places You'll Go!'; It's funny to me that after reading the likes Balthasar Gracian, Sun-Tzu, The Bible, and all kinds of buddhist thought, I find myself in tense moments reminding myself to 'remember that life is a great balancing act.' and getting pretty much all of the nourishment I need from it.

One of my favorite adult authors, Robertson Davies, puts it this way:

"The great book for you is the book that has the most to say to you at the moment when you are reading. I do not mean the book that is most instructive, but the book that feeds your spirit. And that depends on your age, your experience, your psychological and spiritual need."

And I agree. Children's books aren't presumptuous. They speak to something basic and, while perhaps not always pure--children can be little shits--something certainly more charming within us. Shel Silverstein never claimed Boethius as a predecessor, but his simple little verses and lyrics have left a far bigger impression on me than anything that poor, soon to be bludgeoned statesman ever could have.

I'm grateful to my kids for reawakening my love of stories. I was becoming one of those readers who sought out all of the important stuff; How frivolous to only read the classics.
I'm also grateful that my kids are here to share these rediscoveries with me; In them I have found on this re-journey both catalysts, and fellow travelers. Not only do I get to see things with the benefit of my own hindsight, but also with their new eyes. It's phenomenal.

So, if you've got some 'you time' today, and plan to catch up on a little reading, consider forgoing that hefty tome on some obscure country's revolution, put Oprah's newest bookclub downer back on the bookshelf; go up into your attic, or down into your basement, or into your kid's room, and try on something simultaneously new and familiar. I bet you'll be happy you did (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed!).

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