In the Great Green Room, by Amy Gary, is the life story of beloved author Margaret Wise Brown. Her children’s book, Goodnight Moon, is a classic and lives forever in the hearts of my family. The book is dearly loved by both our children and our grandson. But as much as we love this little book, I really didn’t know anything about the woman who wrote it.
So when this book was released last week, I was very interested in reading it. I bought it immediately and read it in two days. I wish I could say that I loved it, but I didn’t. The book gave me an interesting look into the publishing world of the time and into the creation of her very special books, but I found Brown’s life to be sad and tragically short, and I’ve been haunted by it in the last few days.
Her childhood was difficult with the constant dissonance between her parents and her struggle to find her own identity and worth in a world that seemed to undervalue her. She acted out as a teenager and young woman, and was considered rather “wild.” But she had a tremendous talent for writing, and especially writing for children, and that gave her a little more stability and her livelihood.
She had a strength that I admired — she survived life with very difficult parents and without much guidance overall. And she found her voice as an artist in her writing, although because her books were all for children, she was not esteemed as highly at that time as she should have been. She was instrumental in the building up of the children’s book publishing world. She was in many ways a strong woman.
But she made very poor choices for herself, especially in relationships, and I found myself feeling very sad about her life. She died young, and that, too, was a sad loss for all of us.
It was an interesting read. I do recommend it, especially if you love her work. But…I found it sad and haunting, and I’m afraid I’ll look at Goodnight Moon now with a tinge of sadness that was not there before.
“If we encounter a man of rare intellect, we should ask him what books he reads.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Yesterday, this country said goodbye to an intelligent, compassionate, decent, hardworking President and First Lady. For me, the end of his administration is a profound loss, and I am deeply concerned about what this incoming administration might do to our country and the world.
This week I read a couple of articles about how reading was so important to President Obama during his time in office. How wonderful to have a president who found both guidance and solace in reading during the most difficult job in the world!
So today, instead of watching hours of inauguration coverage of a man who relishes the attention of others above all else, I am going to READ. I’m not hiding my head in the sand. I will be very active in my responses to these new challenges for all Americans. But I will follow the lead of My president, Barak Obama, and read for guidance and solace at this very sad time.
The sun is out on this cold January morning. It is cheering, but not warming up very fast! The side roads around town are still icy, although the main roads are pretty good, so I was able to get back to my exercise class this morning and then stop at my favorite lookout point on my way home to take a winter photo of the snowfields and the coastal range. And now I am home again having a cup of coffee and listening to Vivaldi. Sunshine, good coffee, and beautiful music. Doesn’t that sound lovely?
Do you ever feel as if your reading life is fractured? I always have at least three books going at the same time…an audiobook to listen to while driving or knitting, a Kindle book, and a library book. Perhaps because of the bitter cold, dreary, and confining weather we are having, plus the dismal state of the union at the moment, I find that my reading life is definitely fractured! I am reading 7 different, very diverse, books at the same time ! And I’m enjoying them all!
- Audiobook: Listening to The Silkworm, by Robert Galbraith (although I took a break from it to listen to the newly published In the Great Green Room–The Brilliant and Bold Life of Margaret Wise Brown, by Amy Gary.
- Kindle Books: I am in the middle of The Two Towers, by J.R.R. Tolkien, my re-read of his Lord of the Rings trilogy. I am also reading Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, for Roof Beam Reader’s Classics Book-a-Month Club. I started Wild Seed, by Octavia Butler, last month then set it aside to start Little Women…but I keep going back to it. And then I pre-ordered the book The Meaning of Michelle, by Veronica Chambers, and it came in last week, so I started it, too!
- Library Books: When we had a break in the stormy, icy weather last week, Hubby and I walked to the library. I came home with too many books, and am enjoying a knitting book called Seamless (or Nearly Seamless) Knits, by Andra Knight-Bowman and a gardening book, Sissinghurst: Portrait of a Garden, by Jane Brown.
Definitely fractured reading, and It’s a little like a reading frenzy, too. Does this ever happen to you, or am I completely losing it in the middle of the very January January??
Last year, I discovered a new-to-me author that I really like. Victoria Connelly writes kind stories, with characters that I enjoy getting to know and that I care about. I appreciate the gentle wisdom she shares with us through her stories and the sense of fun she puts into her writing. My favorite of her books so far is The Book Lovers, because I am a book lover and it’s clear that she is, too!
‘So how did you end up loving books so much?’ Callie looked thoughtful. ‘I’m not sure,’ she said honestly, ‘but I remember one day in the school library. It as one of those quiet lessons where you’re meant to be reading in silence, and I was sitting there looking at all the books on the shelves, thinking that it was the greatest gift in the world to be able to walk up to any of them and choose one, open it up and dive into a brand new world. That seemed like the most amazing privilege to me.’
We are “snowed in” for a few days with this last round of winter storms in Oregon. There are many closures again today, and Hubby and I are fortunate to be able to just stay put in the warm. I don’t mind it at all because I have my books and my knitting!
I am also spending time going through the archives of this blog, looking for posts to share with you once again. I found a post I wrote eight years ago about a pediatrician who shares two of my own passions: early literacy and knitting. The book review is still very relevant today and a book about reading and knitting fits well with my own activities on this snowed-in day.
From the Archives: A post from January 11, 2009. TWO SWEATERS FOR MY FATHER
As soon as the ice on the roads melted after the holidays, I headed for the library, and this book, Two Sweaters For My Father, was a treasure I found on the shelf with all the knitting books. Perri Klass is a pediatrician, the medical director of Reach Out and Read (“a national non-profit organization that promotes early literacy by giving new books to children, and advice to parents about the importance of reading aloud, in pediatric exam rooms across the nation”), and a passionate knitter! This book of essays on knitting was a pleasure to read, not just because I’m a knitter, too, but because Perri Klass is a wonderful writer and a delightful human being. I felt like I’d found a new friend as I read this book.
Her essays, which have been published in various knitting magazines, are about all kinds of experiences she’s had related to knitting and life, and were fun to read. I chuckled all the way through her essay on teaching her daughter to knit. Her essay on knitting after 911, called Knitting in the Shadow, described how life changed even for knitters after that event. The title story, about knitting two sweaters for her father, was a lovely tribute to her father’s unconditional love. And I loved her stories about friendships and knitting, and about having surgery for a repetitive stress injury caused by non-stop knitting and her #13 circular knitting needle! Each story is full of humor and wisdom…and knitting.
I liked this description from her essay, “Y2K—The Year 2 Knit”:
“Knitting is here, knitting is now. When I am knitting, I am knitting—no message left, no tracking who owes whom an attempted communication. The yarn travels through my hands, the needles move, and I am creating a something that was not there before. Not a virtual something that can always be altered with a single click, but a real and tangible something, which can only be altered with a heartbreaking rip and then a multitude of clicks. I think about all the jobs nowadays in which there is no something you are making, and even no someone you are really seeing and talking to, and I understand how knitting fits and stretches to fill a need.”
And this explanation from her essay, “A Passion For Purls”:
“So what is it—what do I get from all this knitting, and what is missing when I take a hard look at myself and don’t see any yarn or needles?
What is missing, I think, is a special sense of portable everyday serenity. Knitting brings something into my life that I might also get—but generally don’t—from great music, religion, or the contemplation of majestic natural beauty. When I knit, my soul is calmed, and, sometimes, exalted. But it’s an every-day exaltation, a calm domestic serenity, easily transported from place to place in a cloth bag…”
Dr. Klass writes for those of us who find daily serenity and creative outlet in knitting or in some other kind of handwork. I’m delighted to have discovered this knitting doctor who champions early literacy!
More about Reach Out and Read — “Doctors and nurses know that growing up healthy means growing up with books. The ROR program provides the tools to help promote children’s developmental skills and later school success.”