First, nuts and bolts - My Loving Vigil Keeping was named a finalist in this year's Whitney Awards competition. It's in the Historical Fiction category, which works about right. I believe the awards event is in early May in Provo, Utah. Now I'll promptly forget about it, because if I don't, I'll start worrying and wondering what will happen. It's a privilege to reach that finalist stage, and I thank whoever made that happen.
Also, Cedar Fort is flying me to New York City on the weekend of May 31 for BookExpo America. I believe there will be two booksignings. It'll be a short visit. I may volunteer to pay for another night there, myself. We used to live in Brooklyn, NY, while Martin was in graduate school. I'd like to have time to visit a favorite eatery (Nathan's Famous Hotdogs), and maybe the Frick Museum.
Now to that man with the good idea, per this blog's title. I don't generally read obituaries in the newspaper, but this one caught my eye. The man's name is Welsford Hone "Gus" Clark, and for 38 years, he taught in the elementary education department at Brigham Young University, retiring in 1994.
This caught my attention, because my daughter Mary Ruth Huerta was going to school in elementary education at that time. I just sent her a Facebook message, asking if she had ever taken a class from Dr. Clark.
Here's what really caught my attention - the last paragraph reads, "In lieu of flowers, the family requests that you purchase a children's book and spend precious time reading it to a child."
Boy howdy, how great is that? Wouldn't it be a good funeral where everyone just got comfortable and listened to a good storyteller read children's books? We could all drink cocoa and wrap up in a fuzzy blanket and listen to good books. I could enjoy that.
If I had a quarter for every book I read my children, I'd be rich. Come to think of it, I am rich, because we heard some wonderful stories through the years. My kids had their favorites. Sam liked Brinton Turkle's series about Obadiah, the little Quaker boy on Nantucket, who was always getting in trouble. Thy Friend, Obadiah, is his favorite. Jeremy liked Munro Leaf's classic Ferdinand, about the little Spanish bull, who liked to "sit just quietly and smell the flowers." I think Liz liked Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. I can still recite copious portions of that book. Ditto the Madeline books.
Madeline and the Bad Hat was a favorite. Madeline befriends the naughty little son of the Spanish ambassador, who lived next door to the girls' school ("An old house in Paris that was covered with vines."). What with one thing and another, the Bad Hat gets in lots of trouble and ends up injured. There's this line - "There was sorrowing and pain in the embassy of Spain." To this day, if one of my kids has a problem, I think of that line, and often say it out loud, even though I get weird looks from folks who aren't in the know about children's literature.
Sarah loved the beautifully illustrated books by Tasha Tudor. I wrote Miss Tudor once and told her how much Sarah liked her books. She sent a gracious reply, which really impressed little Sarah. I can't recall offhand which was Mary Ruth's favorite kid book. I do know that she has a houseful of books for her own three children, Aaron, Ruby and Joshua. She sends some to me, too. You're never too old for a great children's book (or two or three).
Has there ever been anything better than reading to children? My big angst came when, gradually, they preferred to read their own books. The upside of all this is that my children are readers. What a blessing, what a gift.
So let's all take Dr. Clark's advice, and buy a book and read it to a child. Civilization will keep percolating right along. The only thing sadder than someone who can't read is someone who won't read.