Best Books: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

September 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Oh hey there. Since reading is good and all, I’m going to start a little series of my list of best books. For Me and L alike.

First up, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

Image via Goodreads

One time, when I was really pregnant, I was house sitting for my parents, sleeping awkwardly on my side in their bed (mine was at my apartment in carrboro), and it was late late at night (or early early in the morning), and I called the one person that I knew would be awake. The now-boyfriend but then-friend, Alex. And Alex, for all those who know him, is a great talker if you get him at a good time. And I had caught him when he was finishing up a piece of artwork, and I was feeling exceptionally alone and out of sorts, so Alex talking about anything was the most welcome thing in the world.

He told me about the piece he was working on, a little bit about school, and then he began to tell me about his favorite book as a child, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day which is just about perfect with it’s heavy repetition of the title (good for little ones to fill in!), the perfect thing to hear after terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

And I didn’t really give it a second thought until I received it as a gift for my baby shower, by good friends Charlie and Christel, and it came up again. And it’s perfect in it’s simplicity. The title character, Alexander, is having a really crappy day. (He doesn’t get the toy out of the cereal, the sneakers he wants are sold out, he gets punished for something his brother did, the elevator door closes on his foot, etc.) And he wants to move to Australia. And at the end, his mother calmly tells him that some days are just like that, even in Australia.

This is such an important thing to learn, for little kids, when everything is the worst thing that happens. And for me to remember, when a bad day is the worst day and work sucks and I can’t even imagine going back, so I hope Lena learns this, and I can’t tell you how many times I shut the door of my car, walk to the back door to take Lena out, and I just say to myself, That was a terrible horrible no good very bad day, and another part of me responds, Some days are like that, even in Australia, and then there’s this swooping feeling as memory rushes in, of over 4 years ago, feeling so alone and scared holding on to my phone in the middle of the night, and Alex saying from so far away, it will be ok, and damn, if a kids book can make a person feel all that, it must be a good one.

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Starting to pay off

June 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

Last night, Lena let me read Charlotte’s Web to her.

I had forgotten how much I loved this book.

The barn was very large. It was very old. It smelled of hay and it smelled of manure. It smelled of the perspiration of tired horses and the wonderful sweet breath of patient cows. It often had a sort of peaceful smell–as though nothing bad could happen ever again in the world. It smelled of grain and of harness dressing and of axle grease and of rubber boots and of new rope. And whenever the cat was given a fish-head to eat, the barn would smell of fish. But mostly it smelled of hay, for there was always hay in the great loft up overhead. And there was always hay being pitched down to the cows and the horses and the sheep.

E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web

I grew up with this book and I haven’t opened it or even thought about it in years. And last night, taking off the worn jacket and beginning to read it to Lena, I can’t describe the familiarity of the words to my ear, my wonder, piqued again by these small heroines, and noticing that Lena too, is listening quietly. Here is one of those moments, so whole and tangible, when Lena gives me so much more than motherhood. She’s taking me back. I can’t describe what children’s literature means to me. I grew up reading. Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume. Hatchet, The Giver, Cheaper by the Dozen, Walk Two Moons, I could go on and on and on down to Archie comics that I read every morning while eating cereal. I loved to read, and I still do, and Lena is reminding me how enchanted I was by these books. How much I loved and craved stories, the worlds that these authors created. How much I learned from them.

Although, I was saddened to learn that in the most recent versions of Are You There, God, It’s Me Margaret the elusive “belted sanitary napkins” have been changed to “adhesive sanitary pads”. Not the case when I was growing up, and until I got my period I was still quite under the impression that I too would get to have the little pink belt attached to my…well i think the logistics were still a little unclear at the time.

To Lena,
Thanks for keeping me young.
Now go to bed.
Love,
me

guilty

February 17, 2010 § Leave a comment

The things that are happening.

I have completely devoured the first three books of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. No, not on par with Harry Potter, not at all, yet somehow utterly fantastic. Let me just say this: perfectly packed adventures that span about 10 days time, plenty of historically correct references to Greek mythology, with liberty taken in believable intervals. And yes, Hilary Duff AND Jesse McCartney are both mentioned.

Keeping up with the tweens, that’s me. A veritable pantheon of young adult fiction, I consider myself.

Of course, yesterday I ventured into Davis Library for the first time since becoming an alum(na?). Weird. I checked out Beth Ann Fennelly’s latest book of poetry, Unmentionables, in which she has the best line about footsie pajamas, “un-snap snap snap”, and also Barbara Kingsolver’s new book, The Lacuna. See? I am somewhat literate.

But what I’m guilty for…

Whenever I’m a little sad, or a little lonely at night, sometimes I hope that Lena wakes up and needs to snuggle with me. It happened perfectly last night, the tar heels were down by 20 at the half and Lena had a bit of a cold, and woke up crying. And usually I say, tough love kiddo, you gotta learn to sleep through the night. But last night I just needed it. So I put her in my bed, brushed my teeth, put on my jammies, and crawled in bed with her. With that indescribable comfort that comes with little feet pushing against your back, I got under the covers, turned on my head lamp, and proceeded to read, under my cover tent, listening to Lena breathe on the covers next to me, pausing with every turn she made, feeling that comfortable push of her body against mine. That feeling, you know? That feeling that you’re not alone in the world, no, no matter how hard you try.

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