Thursday, September 5, 2019

Let's Sit Down and Read



I hope you had a great summer, with plenty of reading.  

Henry James said, 
“Summer afternoon, summer afternoon; the two most beautiful words in the English language.”  
That had to include a book don’t you think?


In July I said to Molly, “Here’s what we’ll do for your birthday.  We’ll go to a book store and you can pick out as many books as you like—well, five or six.  Then we’ll go out for lunch.  
We’ll be the Ladies who Lunch.”  
We had a wonderful time at Books of Wonder, on Eighteenth Street, where the staff is well versed in children’s literature.  Molly made her choices and also asked if we could get something for Teddy. I led her to The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and said, “This is a great series, all about a magical place.”
She looked at it and said, “Then I want to start with the first one—this says number two.”
Wait, what? I went to the desk and asked what was up.  
“Isn’t The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe the first of the Narnia Books?  That’s where the adventure begins, right? Why does it say number two?”
The woman in charge of the store took a breath and said, 
“You’re not wrong. The Magician’s Nephew, originally number six, explains everything and sets up the story, so in this edition they moved it to number one. I think it’s a mistake.  It robs The Lion of its magic and surprise. C.S. Lewis wanted to make the M.N. number one as well, but his editors persuaded him against it.  That’s why good writers need good editors.”  
As I said, this staff knows their stuff.
Lunch didn't turn out as I had planned.  I thought we’d have a nice chat but Molly picked up one of those new books and she was gone.  I’m not complaining.  I think one of the loveliest sights in this world is the face of a child immersed in a book.
Next year we’ll have lunch first.  
    
Now it’s September.  The Jewish calendar has it right; this is when the year begins.  We’re rested from the summer, the air is crisp, the trees are bright with color—we’re ready to get busy.



On the first day of school my thoughts always turn to reading.  I can remember the time before I learned to read, I looked at those letters and said, "Pretty soon, I'll know what they mean." 

Who opens that magic door for us?

My friend, Jim, told me about an event where Mr. Rogers was given an award. He, that is, Mr. R, spoke, as he often did, about how we see the people around us.  
He said, “Think about a teacher who inspired you, who helped you, who meant something to you.  Let’s take a quiet moment to say thank you.” 
 Jim said it was a sacred moment.

Who were your inspiring teachers?

I can name all my teachers from nursery school up to the seventh grade, and many in Junior High and High School.  What I remember about the great ones is not what they taught me as much as how they lived their lives-how they approached their work.
Like Mrs. Brilliant-yes that was really her name as she liked to remind us.  Algebra was way over my head until she made me stay after school for extra help. All my life I’ve remembered the look on her face when I got the bonus question right, for an A+.  I knew I’d never be a math teacher, but I knew I had to look for something that would give me that joy.
So, Thank you, Mrs. Brilliant. 





This painting by Winslow Homer is one of my favorites.  I think it's blissful.  There are so many paintings of women reading books I think the models must have said to the artists, "If you want me to sit still for hours you'd better give me a book."

          

There's more than one way to enjoy a book.
Have a wonderful fall, full of happy reading.

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