So Good, I Couldn’t Put it Down

The door flew open and a hulking figure lurched into the room. It stopped, glared at me, then lumbered to the bookshelf, grabbed a small volume, ripped out a page, wadded it up and swallowed it whole. “Good book,” it belched as it left the room.

What makes a “good book?” Unlike the figure described in the nightmare above, “devouring” a book does not have to be literal, but it should hold your attention long enough to finish the book. To me, the key requirement for a “good book” is that I care about at least one of the major characters. I have been known to read a book others might consider boring, looking in vain for that one character who deserves some degree of sympathy.

In junior high (now known as “middle school” where I live), our English teacher made a practice of reading to us each day. I still remember her reading Kon Tiki to us and I can still hear her voice when I say the title.

In high school, our daring and handsome young English teacher read Raise High the Roof Beam. I would not have read J.D. Salinger without that introduction.

When my son was two years old, he became fascinated with “funches”. We weren’t quite sure what a “funch” was until we visited a book store that had a wonderful display of children’s books featuring “funches.” (That’s right, Fire Engines.) Of course we bought the book.

Not too long ago, I read a YA (young adult) novel featuring the youngest son of a family of seven boys growing up in Eastern Washington State. It was set around the time of the War in Vietnam. I did read it in one day. The next morning, my first waking thoughts were of the main character. I found myself thinking about him, hoping that he had had a good life. It took me a minute to realize I was thinking about a fictional character, not  a live human being. That is powerful writing.






Just a nice sunset. Nothing to do with this post!                                                                                                                           Some of my books.


Destructive, Dysfuntional, Dystopian — Distasteful!

I went to the movies this last weekend to see Paddington. I went, I tell myself, because I am doing research on children’s book characters who are kind, thoughtful and strong, instead of obnoxious, loud and mean. Paddington has just made his movie debut, and while I have read two of Michael Bond’s twenty-five book series (I read the 1959 first book and the 2012 last book), I wanted to see first hand how children responded to Paddington.

I was delighted. I got to the theater just after the movie started and found the perfect seat to see both the movie and the audience. The movie was technologically perfect. Paddington was a very appealing animation. If it is possible for a “bear” to move like a human and still remain a convincing bear, the creators of Padding did it. The human cast was spot-on. I even forgot for a while that Mr. Henry Brown was really Lord Grantham and should have been at Downton Abbey instead of in a quirky townhouse in London.

As the movie proceeded, children and their parents began to giggle and laugh. I even laughed out loud (LOL?). It was great to see families together. Padding was a hit. While there was danger and conflict – after all there is no story without those two elements, it didn’t scare the children, it engaged them.

Paddington was rated PG, along with Into the Woods. I think Into the Woods would be far scarier to a three to five-year old than Paddington. Of course the next rating level higher (PG 13) includes such high fear-factor movies as Taken and The Woman in Black 2: Angel of Death.

I’m glad I went. It gave me a much-needed lift. I am more convinced than ever that all of us need many more heroes who are kind, thoughtful and strong.



DSCF1955                  Since I don’t have any pictures of cute bears, Sofie has agreed to pose.