Books

Happy 448th Birthday, Uncle Will.

Nobody knows for sure when the bard was born, but our best guess is April 23rd – today, in 1564.

My dad was a high school English teacher, taught Shakespeare for 30 years. He swung a wooden sword around the classroom to keep everyone on their toes. At the supper table, he feigned – of all characters – Lady MacBeth. I grew up wondering where “the damned spot” really was. And if dad was really a girl.

I studied English at university. I took a class called Shakespeare. It was all about Stephen King. I kid. It was a play a week, and poetry too. I used Coles Notes to fill in the gaps where I partied instead of studied. ‘Tis better to party than not.

I’m no Shakes Scholar. But what can I say, I have a damned soft spot for the stuff.

I can run the category in Double Jeopardy.

And here’s what I read to Max tonight.

He calls it “Nomeo and Julien.” Shakespeare for toddlers. Beautifully simple illustrations with less than three words per page. No Coles Notes required. “When words are scarce they are seldom spent in vain.”

Happy birthday, William Shakespeare. Thank you, dad. And everyone else who loves and shares the written word (and I don’t mean texting): “I can no other answer make, but thanks, and thanks.”

Who knows, in 448 years they could be talking about me. In the inspirational words of the beloved bard, fucken A.

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Full Steam Ahead!

Children’s books. Why are they so dang boring? Okay, I get it, they keep things simple so our kidlets can comprehend what they’re seeing and hearing. But dudes, there are only so many times I can read Green Eggs and Ham and Love You Forever before I want to cut my own tongue out. Don’t get me wrong; Dr. Seuss and Robert Munsch are bonifide geniuses, but these and many other books have lost their luster for me. Sadly, the classics become common; the overdone becomes ordinary.

I seek children’s books that entertain my big momma brain as well as my boy’s. Hey, I’m the one who has to read them a thousand times a day; it’s only fair. I yearn for the day when Max is ready for the likes of Shel Silverstein. (I’ll write more about that mastermind down the road). But I could be waiting a while. Just shy of the 20-month mark, Max is more of a ripper than a reader. When it comes to turn-the-flap books, our home is no house of learning; it’s a slaughterhouse. The “flaps” pool around our feet, after floating around the air in our living room like Forrest Gump feathers.

This will be the first post in my Books section where I’ll feature some of my favourite children’s lit. Starting with this one… I Knew You Could, by Craig Dorfman.

It’s a book about a train, but it’s not just for little boys. It’s not even just for children. It’s for everyone, especially those who are going through something big – a graduation, an illness, a career change, a death. See, it’s not really about a train; it’s about life – that journey. In fact, the subtitle is “A Book for All the Stops in Your Life”. Based on the 1930 classic The Little Engine That Could, it choo-choos about the importance of hope and determination. But unlike the classic American tale of prose, I Knew You Could is magnificent, mouthwatering poetry. So not only do I like what it says; I love how it sounds. Every rhyming couplet is a little burst of wisdom; not one word is wasted. Maybe one day it’ll teach my Max to be an optimistic, hard-working, resilient person. But right now, while my boy is using his books as ramps for his cars and victims of his toddler terror, it’ll teach me to be a better mother.

We all have those “woe is me” moments when we wish we were someone or somewhere else, when we wish we had more money, more talent, more luck. This verse reminds us that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the tracks.

Sometimes you’ll look up and see planes in the sky,
And you’ll think to yourself, “I wish I could fly.”
The cars on the roads will seem quick and free –
You’ll feel stuck on your track and think, “I wish that was me.”
But the plane might wish he could get out of the air,
Saying, “I wish I could travel like that train down there.”
The cars will watch as you speed right along,
And they’ll say to each other,
“Look how fast and how strong!”
Don’t worry about not being a car or a plane,
Just enjoy the trip you’ll take as a train.

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