The Great Wide World Over There – by Ray Bradbury (1953)

The Golden Apples Of The Sun

In addition to his full-length novels, Ray Bradbury wrote many short stories. “The Golden Apples Of The Sun” is a compilation of 22 stories that were originally published from 1945 to 1957. One story that falls right in the middle of this time is “The Great Wide World Over There”.

Cora is a woman whose life is a monotonous routine. She cooks, cleans, and takes care of her husband Tom. She rarely leaves home. Their nephew Benji comes to visit them for the summer. Cora is in awe of Benji, as he knows how to read and write, unlike herself and Tom. She spends a glorious summer with Benji, listening to him read aloud and watching him write. They send off letters, and start receiving letters in the new mailbox that Tom builds. The story starts off so well, but ends oh so sadly.

I listened to this book on the “Levar Burton Reads” podcast. For many years, Mr. Burton brought children’s books to life by reading them aloud on PBS’s television program “Reading Rainbow”. In June of 2017, he again began reading aloud, this time to an adult audience through his podcast. There was some musical accompaniment in the background that enriched the experience, but honestly, Mr. Burton is such a fine narrator that he didn’t really need anything extra.

“The Great Wild World Over There” is the story of ordinary people like Cora, who are given the opportunity to explore more of their world, but somehow manage to miss the boat.

 

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That Book Woman – by Heather Henson (2008)

that book woman

Recently, I have been learning about the pack-horse librarians of the 1930’s. The mountain communities of Kentucky were so void of libraries that strong young women were hired by the federal government to bring in books on horseback. The books were donated, and the women had to use their own horse, but they were paid for their work, which was a rarity during the depression.

I was excited to find this children’s picture at my local library. The story is told by a young boy, who at first resents the “book lady”, as he thinks that his family will have to trade the berries he wants for a pie, for a book to borrow. But the woman tells his mother that there is no charge, she can borrow a book for free, and she will be back in two weeks to trade one book for another!

Some of the wording may seem unfamiliar to most kids, but it’s easy enough to explain, and gives a mental picture of how different childhood was back in “the old days”. It’s a sweet story that takes only a few minutes to read, but makes me appreciate the libraries we have available to us now.

Another post about the pack-horse librarians:
https://alwaysreading1.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/the-pack-horse-library/

Good Riddance To February!

Book_MG_1286

It’s the last day of February, and I’m not sorry to see it end. It’s been a wretched month filled with bad weather, slippery roads, way too many snow days off school, and an illness that left me coughing and drained of energy for much of the month. It’s also been mostly sun-less, which doubles the dreariness.

But reading has again been the saving grace. No matter how cold it was, how hard the wind was blowing outside, how bad the hacking cough and exhaustion was, books were always there. Contemporary fiction by Anne Tyler, several kids’ books, John Grisham’s newest novel, a book about movies, the history of Faygo pop, and a couple oldies-but-goodies. When I couldn’t sleep at night, I listened to an audiobook on my iPod in the dark. These books carried me away from winter, and transported me to other places and times. In addition to that, I did some reading online about the future of optical drives, and the history of taxation in our country.

Books helped me get through the month of February. Now I am ready to turn the page, and step into the March…

Reading Just Part Of A Book

our glorious century

When you read a book of fiction, you generally have to read all of it to have a satisfactory experience. But with many non-fiction books, you can read just a section of the book, choosing the part that interests you. This book (by Readers’ Digest) goes decade by decade, and just gives the highlights from each time period.

I chose the first decade – 1900 to 1909. It was fun to read, not boring like the history books in school. It didn’t get overly detailed, and each page had multiple pictures to make it more real to the reader. I read about 45 pages, and understood the decade much better than I had before. There were so many great things that happened and developed during that decade:
– Electricity, lightbulbs, and telephones started appearing in homes.
– 9 million immigrants moved into the US; most were from southern or eastern Europe.
– Our country had more than half of the railroad tracks in the world (193,000 miles)!
– There was no income tax – imagine that!
– X-ray machines were being used in medical treatment.
– Scientists discovered that yellow fever was transmitted by mosquitos, and epidemics
could be curbed by exterminating the insects. The last major U.S. epidemic was in 1906.
– The NAACP was formed in 1909 to advocate for the rights of Negroes/black persons.
– The first nickelodeon (a theatre that showed early attempts at movie-making) started in
1905, expanded to 1,000 of them by the following year, and to ten thousand in 1910.
– In 1900, 1.7 million children were working. Some 284,000 of them were in coal mines or
factories, up to 12 hours a day. Child labor was not yet illegal.
– Thanks to the 1906 Pure Food And Drug Act, medicine containers had to list what it
contained. Snake oil cures were revealed to contain mostly alcohol.
– Psychology was in vogue. It was socially acceptable to have “a case of nerves” or
“brain fatigue”. Freud became popular.

One thing that really stood out to me was this:
Literacy among Americans grew to over 90% by 1910 – fantastic!

So don’t be hesitant about picking up a thick non-fiction book like this one, and reading just a part of it. I’m glad I did, and will do more of this in the future!

 

Frustration

I have not been reading much lately. Perhaps I have hit the saturation point, the point at which I have found and read most of the books to fill my lifetime reading well. There should be something that catches my attention, some book that lures me in, shouldn’t there? But aside from a biography that I am slowly working my way through, there is nothing appealing on the reading horizon.

So I have turned to a different endeavor: organizing the family pictures and videos, and putting them into a storyline on DVDs so that we can remember the highlights of our life. It’s tedious work, but it needs to be done. 2014 went well. 2015 went well. But yesterday I worked all day on a Final Cut Pro project for 2016 that seemed to be going well – until I burned it onto DVD. The entire movie was wrong, wrong, wrong – stretched sideways in some clips and shrunk down in size on other segments! What went wrong? I tried reading the help section, but the directions given to correct the problem in the project didn’t work. If yanking out my hair and screaming at the top of my lungs would help, I would do it.

Maybe today I’ll just put aside the video project and go back to the biography…

Am I Really Always Reading?

Asimov SF magazine.jpg

I have been obsessed with reading ever since before I could actually read. As a preschooler, my parents often observed me holding a book and “reading” the story aloud to my toys. When I learned to read, I took off like a rocket, devouring longer children’s books and quickly moving on to full-length hardcover books. Then came real adulthood, with things like jobs, parenthood, and volunteer opportunities, which rendered me unable to read as much as in childhood. But I still take time nearly every day to read for the sheer pleasure of it. In that sense, I am always reading.

Last night I chose to read one of the little 25-cent science fiction magazines I bought at the last library book sale – “Asimov’s Science Fiction” from September of 1982. In it, Isaac Asimov recalls how he used to read the small amount of science fiction that was available in those days. Then he began writing his own science fiction, with little time left for casual reading. When the science-fiction field exploded with new authors, it became impossible to keep up with all the new books being written. Mr. Asimov said:
“The result is that, since 1960 or so, I have been able to read only a small portion of the science fiction that has been published, and I have been falling steadily farther and farther behind. So it has come about that I am no longer an expert in the field of SF. This, however, is not a situation unique to myself. No one, these days, can keep up with the field, or would even think of trying to do so, unless it were his job – unless he were a full-time science-fiction critic, collector, or anthologist. Could you do it if you have a job, or other interests?”

No one can keep up with the books which have been published in the past 50 or 60 years. We are living in extraordinary times. In the history of the world, there has never been so much reading material from which to choose. It can be frustrating to realize that you will never have the time to read every book that grabs your attention. But each day has at least a little sliver of time to read something, and that is one of life’s most enjoyable gifts.

 

Burro Genius – by Victor Villaseñor (2004)

Burro Genius

This is a masterful book in which the author describes his life as a young boy growing up in Oceanside, California with his parents. His father was a man with a fiery temper and a reputation of being a gangster, but also with an undying loyalty to his family and his heritage. His mother was beautiful and loving, and always teaching her children about Jesus and the saints. His father bought a ranch when Victor was very young, and that is where the book takes place.

Victor thought going to school would be fun when he started kindergarten. Instead, the first thing he learned in school was that he was considered inferior and stupid because of his Mexican ancestry.  Both the teacher and the other students made life miserable for him. He was teased, bullied, slapped around and beaten up, and no one seemed to care. To make matters worse, he was having a terrible time learning the alphabet and simple words.

Things were just as bad when he got to first grade, second grade, and third grade. He was forced to endure the humiliation of repeating third grade because he still was unable to read. His parents tried several different schools, but it was the same wherever he went. No reading, but a lot of bullying. It was not until Victor was an adult with children of his own that he was diagnosed with the most severe form of dyslexia.

It was hard to read of such blatant racism and prejudice. I wanted to ask what on earth was wrong with those teachers and principals, that they tolerated the abuse Victor was suffering. No child should ever have to go through what Victor went through. There was a fair amount of anger and swearing in this book, but it would have been difficult to give an accurate portrayal of Victor’s family life without the language.  There were also tender moments, when Victor’s father shared some very profound thoughts about forgiveness. Although it was a rough story with raw emotion, it was a camera into the soul of a person who has battled the devil of prejudice and racism, and won.