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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Where's Papa going with that axe? (AKA My Favorite First Lines)

Novels are supposed to pull you in.  Well, that's what I think, anyway.  It's what I want them to do.  From the moment I read the first few words, I want to have that "certainty" hit me; or what I think of as that special feeling that tells me the kids might not get lunch and that I'm going to have to re-schedule everything on my to-do list for the next 24-48 hours, because I'm going to have a book stuck in my face!  The writer wants his or her readers to keep reading, and some of my all-time favorite authors do that very well, from Word One.  Here are some of my favorite first lines (or first few lines) from a smattering of my best-loved books.  This list may not contain first lines that are famous around the world, but they're the ones that resonate with me:

"'Where's Papa going with that axe?' said Fern to her mother as they were setting the table for breakfast."
E.B. White, --Charlotte’s Web, (1952)

"It was a dark and stormy night."  :-) 
Madeleine L'Engle, A Wrinkle in Time (1962)

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife." —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (1813)

"There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." —C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)

"Claudia knew she could never pull off the old-fashioned kind of running away."  --E. L. Konigsburg, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (1972)

 "In a hole in the ground there lived a Hobbit."  J. R. R. Tolkein, The Hobbit (1966) "When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold.  My fingers stretch out, seeking Prim's warmth but finding only the rough canvas cover of the mattress.  She must have had bad dreams and climbed in with our mother.  Of course, she did. This is the day of the reaping."
 --Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games (2008)

"First the colors.
Then the humans.
That’s usually how I see things.
Or at least, how I try."
--Marcus Zusack, The Book Thief (2006)

What is it that makes you want to keep reading?  An interesting protagonist, a bizarre situation?  The hint of something unusual that's to come, or something that makes you laugh?  What's your favorite first line?  :-)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Read to Your Kids

This post comes from someone who is both a bibliophile and a speech-language pathologist.  We've all heard "read to your kids" a million times (plus two) and I think most of us know that reading to children, the younger the better, increases their chances of being successful in school. 

I have no argument with that.  I want my kids to do well.  I know the research, I've seen firsthand the results, and so we read together every day.

But now here's the book-lover's argument.

I want my kids to love books!  I don't simply want them to learn to read and excel in the classroom, I want them to get to know the boy with the strange scar on his forehead who lives under the stairs at number four, Privet Drive.  I want my children to know what it's like to raise a dragon.  I want them to travel with Meg via tesseract to another galaxy to rescue Meg's father.  I want them to get to know Scout and Jem, Bilbo Baggins, Wilbur and Charlotte, Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy Pevensie, and yes, even Katniss Everdeen. 

Growing up, I'm so glad I was able to escape into another world when I needed to.  I'm so grateful for all the things I've learned and continue to learn by reading.

A terrific quote I recently read sums it up best for me:

"There are many little ways to enlarge your child's world. Love of books is the best of all."
— Jacqueline Kennedy