for the little ones - and what little kid is not enamored of the idea of setting off on a long journey to a far-off magical place - is Where the Wild Things Are, by the incomparable Maurice Sendak.
i know this book isn't anything new, and we've all read it a billion times, and they just made a movie of it and yadda yadda yadda... but let's face it, this is a terrific story.
Sendak had such a genius for storytelling, and for the flow and cadence of words.
when you read (ok, well, when I read anyway) the page that goes,
"and he sailed off through night and day, and in and out of weeks and almost over a year"
it's like poetry.
and when the narrator tells how the wild things
"roared their terrible roars, and gnashed their terrible teeth, and rolled their terrible eyes, and showed their terrible claws"
the repetition is mesmerizing and intense.
and of course, who can help but whoop along with Max when he cries,
"let the wild rumpus start!"
and all this is to say nothing of the illustrations. talk about capturing your child's imagination. Sendak's wild things are iconic and vibrant.
and there is something so warm in the ending, when Max sails back home and there, in his room is his supper, still warm. it carries a perfect sort of understated grace.
because i love this book so much, and especially because i love reading it aloud so much, i thought this would be the perfect time to try out a new activity i had in mind.
it's nothing new or splendidly original, but perhaps something we as parents (or aunts and uncles, or teachers or grandparents... ) ought to actually sit down and do.
a friend of mine's mother in law sends tapes every month to my friend's children which are recordings of her reading them stories. they love the tapes and listen to them over and over. she lives half a continent away and isn't able to see them often, and i've always thought it was a particularly beautiful way for her to be part of their lives. i've been wanting to do this for a long time. not because i live far away from my kids, or because i don't read to them all the time anyway, but because in this way, we could keep something. something special.
and so today's activity is a recording of me reading Where the Wild Things Are for my kids.
(note: i hate being on camera... which is why i haven't done this already... but stupid vanity aside, i'm giving it a go. be kind.)
depending on your computer's settings, you might need to turn up your sound. everyone else was still sleeping and we were trying to be quiet.
For middle sized kids (along with the Sendak.. because that one's for everybody), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (which can now be purchased with or without the N-word, depending on your personal preference and what you think your child can handle) by the king of deadpan humor, Mark Twain.
join Huck on his unforgettable journey as he flees from Pap, fakes his own death, helps Jim escape, and navigates the dangers, both watery and human in nature, of the mighty, muddy Mississippi River.
and for the grown-ups, a book that will always hold a special place in my heart, Cormac McCarthy's, The Road.
i can't say enough about this author. i haven't quite read EVERYTHING he's written, but everything i have read, has been glorious. this story in particular of a father and his young son travelling south in a danger-riddled post-apocolyptic world, is moving and powerful, both in scope, in character, and in the absolutely haunting beauty of his sparse but elegant prose.
if you've never read anything by McCarthy. this is your book.
alright. and because i have another favorite road-themed book... this one is a bonus. i won't even talk about it too much.
where mccarthy is sparse, kerouac is effusive. where cormac says it three words, jack uses thirty-seven. his prose is lyrical and relentless and it will eat at your mind and get into your blood until the only sentences you'll find to use will be run-ons, and you'll be seeing everything through the eyes of a genius, mid-century rail-hopping, jazz-digging, beat.
seriously. if you've never read this... today's the day.
go out today. breathe the air, find a road, take a step. and then another.
make today all about the journey.