105 Ways to Give a Book

Last Days of Summer

I have become well aware that we are closing in on the last days of summer. While many of you are sending the kids to school already, here in Virginia we have another two weeks — plus a spare, long weekend — and I’m clinging onto these eighteen days as our last gasp of freedom before Schedules come to take over our lives.

However, even I can no longer deny that school is just around the corner, so yesterday I shared some back-to-school titles at PBS Booklights, and today I’m sharing a poem that seems to speak of my own reluctance to leave summer behind.
The School Boy
by William Blake 

I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the sky-lark sings with me.
O! what sweet company.

But to go to school in a summer morn,
O! it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn.
The little ones spend the day,
In sighing and dismay.
Read the rest of the poem at Famous Poems and Poets and find more poems through Poetry Friday, hosted today at Teach Poetry.
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It’s a Book, Jackass

Today at PBS Booklights I’m talking about three picture books with surprise endings. One of those titles I’m sharing here, because I’m ready for a discussion.

There were lots of raves for the trailer for Lane Smith’s It’s a Book. (You can see the trailer at that Amazon link.) The concept of talking about a book as not being electronic may certainly be enhanced by the irony of watching the video on one’s computer. I get that. But it’s bothered me since I first saw the trailer that it doesn’t contain what makes the book... special.

At the very beginning of this book, we are introduced to the characters — a mouse, a monkey, and a jackass. That’s the hint. The payoff comes after the monkey has explained the concept of a book throughout the story, and ends with the line, “It’s a book, jackass.”

See, I’m not sure that I’m okay with that ending in a practical sense, as in actually wanting to read it to my niece. I guess I can respect it as a choice in the name of Art and Literature, and I suppose that is where all the amazing reviews are coming from — Horn Book, Kirkus, The New Yorker, and so on.

But if you look at the Amazon reviews, mainly from parents, you’ll find a more divided group. Even reviewers giving the book three or four stars often said something about the use of the word jackass and questioning whether they would want to read this book to a child. Some pushed the title as being for older kids or even adults. But is that what we’re lacking? A picture book for adults? Others questioned whether school libraries would want to own it. Again, because that’s what librarians need: more issues.

Without that bit, it’s a good book with a commentary on our electronic age. The illustrations are engaging, and there’s humor in the story and the concept. But jackass? That gives me pause.

What do you think?

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So Here’s the Thing...

I’ve been back home for more than a week and I haven’t felt like writing. Well, that’s not exactly it, but trying to clarify has made me write this particular sentence over and over again. Which is a good example of why I didn’t feel like writing. Maybe I should back up.

I did get back from a wonderful trip to New York City. We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to do in the city, nor did we create an overnight Broadway star in my tween. We did have an fantastic time and she had an excellent experience, and I’ll try to write a fuller report later.

Right after we got home, I found that an important medical consultation for my mom was going to be pushed back two weeks — unless we could make it in two days instead. That wouldn’t be a problem, except that she lives in Virginia Beach and the appointment was at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. So instead of a week of rest following our fun-but-exhausting trip, I was getting the house ready and then hosting guests.

I had a nice visit with my brother, who needed to drive my mom up to my place. My niece was a ray of sunshine. My mom was... okay. It was an overwhelming experience for her — from dropping everything to come north, to the bad luck surrounding her appointment which put in five hours of driving time for an hour’s consultation, to processing the visit with the specialist, and so on. Her stroke makes it hard for her to understand complicated things anyway, and we’ve got tough things to talk through — as many times as it takes.

We have many appointments and tests to go before I can really share more, but I can say that it wasn’t an easy week and I didn’t feel like writing. The problem is that the more I don’t blog, the harder it is to get started again. Like, at all. So I’m dumping this all out here in the hopes of clearing the cobwebs from my brain and getting going again online.

Thanks for listening.