How to Get Your Kids to Read

While reading the online mussing of one of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card, he mentions a great way to get your kids to read a book that he recommends,

Or you can slip it to a twelve-year-old or ten-year-old, after you’ve read it yourself, and say, “I think you’re old enough to read this now.” (Those are the magic words, you know, to make a book intriguing. The only words more powerful are, “I think you’re almost old enough to read this. But maybe not. I think we’ll wait a while.” And then you “forget” and leave it out where they can see it.)

Something that I’ll have to remember (and use) for when my kids are a little older.

In the Company of Ogres

In the Company of Ogres

I just finished a new novel by A. Lee Martinez titled In the Company of Ogres. In one of my not so typical (at least since having kids) undertakings, I finished this book in one day. Martinez follows in the Robert Aspin Myth Adventures style of fantasy writing by combing extreme absurdity, whimsical comedy, complete stupidity, and a protagonist who keeps getting himself killed, but can never seem to stay dead.

The story revolves around Never Dead Ned, a particularly boring, unenthusiastic, and seemingly average solider with no ambitions who just got transferred from the accounting department in the Brute’s Legion to become the company commander of the Ogre Company. What follows is good work that mixes humor, folly, military daring, and some truly wild characters in to pretty good tale.

I would definitely say that is worth the read. 3.5 out 5 stars.

The Legends of Dune

The Butlerian Jihad (Legends of Dune, Book 1)I recently finished listening to all three books in The Legends of Dune, a prequel to the Dune series. It actually took a long time to listen to these books (almost 4 months). Not only are they exceeding long, but they are extremely heavy. By that I mean, that the prose is thick, the stories complex, and they tend to plod along (sometimes at an extremely slow pace). At times I just wanted to chuck the whole lot and start something else, but I kept going. The performance was by Scott Brick, who did a very good reading the material.

The Machine Crusade (Legends of Dune, Book 2)This series takes place 10,000 years before the start of the original Dune book. It tells the stories of how the humans escaped from under the rule of the robots and it tells how each of the houses came into being and sets the stage for the things that happen way in the future. It also explains how the different guilds (Spacing Guild, Bene Gesserit, Mentats) came into being. The problem with this series is that it cuts between each of these stories lines in an unending cycle. Earth, Arrakis, on a space ship, the free human world, and then it repeats and repeats. I got tired of hoping from one thing to another.

The Battle of Corrin (Legends of Dune, Book 3)Overall, I enjoyed the series, but it was nothing like the original books. While some authors really benefit by using more words (saying in 10 words what others might say with just 1). These guys are not in that class. What took them 3 books and over 2000 pages (assuming that you actually read them), could have and should have been said in half that many. If you are really into the Dune series, then you’ll want to read them for completeness, but with everything else going against them I give them just 2 out 5 stars.

Satoshi Kitamura, Great Children’s Author

Duck Is Dirty

Satoshi Kitamura is one my children’s favorite authors. He has a series of board books that Sarah (and Ellie when she was Sarah’s age) wanted me to read over and over again. The series includes: Duck Is Dirty, Squirrel Is Hungry, and Bath-Time Boots. I would recommend that everyone with 1-2 years have at least one of these in the library. The funny thing is that we don’t have any. We keep getting them out of our local library, and then we renew them over and over again.

He also has a set of books (mostly based on his cat, Boots) that are geared towards older children that Ellie really likes.

The Uplift War

The Uplift War (The Uplift Saga, Book 3)

The Uplift War by David Brin is a great piece of classic science fiction. I just finished listening to this fantastic book and would recommend it to everyone. 4.5 stars.

The Uplift War is the third book in Brin’s awarding series, but unlike some series you can definately read them out of order. Some books are ment to be read and others are ment to be listened. I strongly recommend that you listen to this one. Brin uses a lot of “alien” words in this books. They are words that when reading I never try to pronouce, but when heard they really bring a great character to the story.

I had a hard time “putting this down”. It always seemed that just as I was arriving at my destination there was some climatic event just getting ready to occur. I can’t tell how many times I would have to sit in the car for 5 minutes to hear what came next.

One of the central themes revolves around that concept of Biological Uplift which the Wikipedia link explains it very well.

I know this not much of a detailed review, if you want those you can stop over at Amazon, but in any case, I will be adding this book to must read list.

The Truth about Fairy Tales

Knowing God Here by Finding Him There

Is fantasy truer than real life? Can it enhance our view of the world in which we live? Does it offer us as adults the chance to break, albeit temporarily, our grip on reality and view the world from the idealistic perspective of a child? In many ways C. S. Lewis thought so. The following passages from the introduction to The Heart of the Chronicles of Narnia by Thomas Williams really struck a chord with me:

Although millions of Christians have delighted in the Narnia stories, I have encountered several and heard of others who shy away from any form of fantasy literature containing magic or real-world impossibilities. They mistrust such stories as conveyors of truth or fear them as escapism from reality, Lewis himself encountered the same attitude and effectively laid to rest such objections by showing how such tales can be “truer” than much of what children read in contemporary fiction…

The longing aroused by the fantastic tale is quite different. The boy reading such a story does not really desire the dangers of dragons and giants and ogres and enchanters. His desire is diffused over the entire world he enters, and it’s impossible to identify any single object as the focus of it. The whole magical aura of castles, knights, spells, woods, mist-shrouded mountains, dwarfs, caves, courage and honor draws him. As Lewis said “It stirs him and troubles him (to his life-long enrichment) with the dim sense of something beyond his reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it a new dimension of depth. He does not despise real woods because he has read of enchanted woods: the reading makes all real woods a little enchanted.”

Addressing the charge that fantasy literature is escapism, [J. R. R.] Tolkien asked Lewis, “What class of men would you expect to be most preoccupied with, and most hostile to, the idea of escape?” The answer: jailers. Lewis described the Christian life as warfare in which Christians lived in enemy-occupied territory. Naturally our enemies would oppose our escape; they would condemn any sort of reading that opens the door and shows us the glory of our true commander, inspiring us to rally to him and throw off the yoke of oppression…

Our problem is that, in Harry Potter terms, we have become “muggles“—mundane creatures unappreciative of and denying the power of anything we cannot see, hear, feel, taste, or touch. Modern rationalism and everyday routine have worn us down to where we reject the magical, romantic view of reality as head-in-the-clouds fantasy. We smile indulgently at teen crushes that send young people swooning and dreaming of that one face that entrances all the senses. We warn about-to-be-marrieds not to expect the euphoria of palpitating romance to last. Romance is an illusion caused by stars in the eyes. We tell the couple to expect the romance to fade and warn them to steel themselves for the long-haul, everyday chore of making a marriage work. Work is the key, not romance. Not joy.

Of course these are all sensible warnings because we live in a fallen world. We are flawed. The new wears off. Youthful beauty fades. The travails we experience convince us that wonder and romance are illusions, that plodding duty and hard work express the essence of reality.

Not so. In the play as God originally wrote it, the euphoria and tingling romance were intended to last. Wonder and delight are essential ingredients of reality, deeply embedded beneath the canker and rust that have marred the world since creation. Beneath the crust of decay, immense glory resides latent in every created thing. That beauty is still visible to any eyes that can be opened to see it. Chesterton reminded us that our world is just as much a fantastic creation as any that the most imaginative write can devise. The romantic view is the true view of reality, because it sees beyond the veil to the true heart of a thing. When the face we behold across the candlelit table appears to be that of a goddess, we see the truth. Likewise when the mountain looks like a monumental being aspiring toward heaven, when the chord of music reverberates in the heart and fills us with a longing for we know not what. In these magical moments the truth breaks past our defenses, shows our muggle existence to be a lie, and reveals reality in all its glory for what it really is.