Monday, July 30, 2012

Lit love

Some of us are poets, and some of us are athletes, I've always believed, and my sweet E has always been a color-at-the-table kind of girl. Even when we send them out into the yard, she wouldn't run, she barely swings, she'll gather dandelions and make wreaths and decorate her fairy garden.

Of course I love her poet's heart but I've always hoped she might develop just a little athlete's grit, too.

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I was lucky, as a girl. I had the best, most caring, attentive and nurturing librarian. She always helped me find new books to read. She encouraged me to fall in love with characters, and respected my opinions of them. She was surprised when I didn't love Dr. Doolittle, but then she helped me find my dear friends Betsy and Tacy. She understood my deep need to read series in order and ordered sequels from two counties away. She spoke straight to me. She still stops my mother in the grocery store to say hello.

We haven't been going to the library much in the past few years. There is a library less than a mile from our house, but it closed for renovations about two years ago and then was caught in a terrible storm of county politics, recession financing and inattention to permit expirations. It finally looks to be receiving someone's attention again, but in the meanwhile we fell out of the library habit. We have bursting shelves. We have amazon. We have busy lives, you know.

But now that E is a real reader, one who devours chapter books and doesn't want the same stories night after night, we needed affordable regular replenishment. It was time to find a substitute library.

And it was one of the best things we've ever done. We found a children's librarian who reminds me so much of the wonder-woman of my own childhood. She has the same kind eyes, the same attentive gaze, the same patience for idiosyncratic dislikes (the same '80s perm), and most importantly, wonderful book recommendations.

She identified my girl's love of falling in love with her characters, and has set us on some series that all follow earnest, loveable, imperfect, elementary school girls. After reading all the Ramonas, we tried a bunch of things. We were going to read them through one at a time, but they're all so good!, E says, that we're reading multiple series at once.

(Listed for you, in case you have an early elementary school girl with a big reading appetite, these are the first titles of wonderful, we-can't-recommend-enough series:

-Amber Brown is Not a Crayon
-Piper Reed, Navy Brat
-Lucy Rose: Here's the Thing About Me
-Ruby Lu, Brave and True
-and all the Ramona spin-offs (Ellen, Otis, Henry).)

So we've been reading, and falling in love, both with characters and our displaced persons' librarian. I wonder what we'll do when our local library finally reopens.

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The thing about books, of course, is that they're so much more than stories. Which literary moments do you carry in your heart?

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In the last Ramona book, Ramona is a big girl, a 4th grader. She's the same Ramona as ever: independent, strong. A little tomboyish. The book opens and closes with her on the monkey bars. Ramona takes pride in her calluses, built from a summer of traversing those bars. Not all the girls have monkey-bar calluses. Some girls can't even cross the bars.

That thought clicked in my poet-hearted girl. At the beginning of summer she couldn't get across the bars, due equally to her fear of the empty space beneath her and her underdeveloped upper body strength.

After I picked her up at the camp bus today, we came home for a snack and a little air conditioning before heading back out to get her brother and sister. She insisted we leave early for a few minutes at the park.

Watch me! she commanded. Back and forth she went, twice, thrice, four times. And when she jumped down she held up her palms. High-fives, indeed, I thought. But she pulled back.

No, Mama!


Look at my calluses.


























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