Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Revisiting the Best of Childhood!

My Mom's new pet name for me is Amelia Bedelia. For those of you who don't know, she's a daffy character from "An I Can Read" children's book series. Particularly if I ask her to do something she doesn't want to do, I hear "Okay Amelia Bedelia," sarcastically in response. Isn't it crazy she can remember a name like that from total recall?! Maybe not, if you consider she has probably read the book about 142 times since July.

It started during a trip to my sister's house this summer. My Mom is a voracious reader, but sadly with dementia, long-term comprehension just isn't there. My sister gave her a few children's books and other than a little initial embarrassment, they've proven to be a big hit. I'd personally risk damaging her dignity just a bit to see the joy on her face as she laughs out loud and even repeats funny lines as she reads now. It really beats coming into a room to find her back to reading the copy right page on an adult novel for the 10th or 12th time. (Authors and illustrators would be pleased to know she may not get caught up on the copyright page anymore, but she still reads every single word from cover to cover, including the full title page as many times as it appears.)

I'm not only a writer, but I love to read too. Why then, did it take me until tonight to realize the gold mine of an opportunity we have here?! We can go back and read ALL of my favorite childhood classics! Here I've had her in the big print section of the library and book store... We're moving over to the children's section toot sweet. (meaning tomorrow) I can't wait! The epiphany came after visiting a literary agent's blog site tonight. She asked for requests from readers of favorite children's books to read on vacation.

The list was sooooo awesome, I'll share a few: Pippi Longstocking (okay, that came from me. I dressed up as Pippi for Halloween in 3rd grade and even though the costume was brilliant -- right down to a stuffed monkey on my shoulder, perched right below braids held high with wire, no one knew who I was ... the plight of a bookworm! I was Laura Ingalls in 2nd grade. That year everyone said "Oh, a prairie girl." They didn't have a clue on that one either.) Ramona the Pest, Anne of Green Gables, James and the Giant Peach, one that's new to me: The Return of the Twelves by Pauline Clark, and one that I think is dear to me: Magic Elizabeth by Norm Kassirer (That's if my own memory isn't failing. I ordered this tonight -- can't wait to find out if the magical escape is just as exciting 30+ years later!)

Oh, and I'm adding Ben and Me by Robert Lawson -- hearing all about Ben Franklin from the perspective of a mouse just blew me away in second grade. I'm sure my Mom, as she struggles to survive in a household with two dogs, a cat and two horses, will find some kind of humor in that one.

I'll end with my Mom's all time favorites. Absolute number one is Little Women, followed by The Bobbsey Twins, and when we came along, Are You There God It's Me Margaret by Judy Bloom. Can you picture my late in life, flat as a pancake, grey haired mother recreating "I must, I must, I must increase my bust," for anyone that would watch and listen?
Especially given her let's call it "small stature" in the chest area, she just thought that was the funniest line ever when the book came out. Even more than the national craze it generated. I was originally thinking at the age of 87 I'd leave the coming into womanhood book off the list, but she's still rather obsessed with being less than endowed, so what the heck, bring it on! Let's see if that line still strikes her funny. And if it does, she can recite it with full arm motions and all as much as she wants -- in my opinion, it's never too late to try!

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