Thisby Thestoop and the Black Mountain

It’s fair to say that I read a good number of books children’s books. Having kids of my own, I like to pilfer their shelves from time to time. In our house, we like to stock “the classics” as a sort of quality guarantee. Since children’s books became a genre there have been writers who have tried to cash in on the children’s market as a way to make a quick buck with little effort. Reading “the classics” means that you get the best books from every era without having to wade through the formulaic twaddle, most of which has mercifully been forgotten over the years.
It’s a different story with modern children’s books. Picking up a new children’s book means taking a chance on wasting your time, and the modern children’s book publishing machine loves tried and true formulas. After the success of Harry Potter we got books about schools for magical/mythological/specially talented kids who are sorted into groups based on their personalities. After The Hunger Games took off, we’ve have had m…

How to Get Teenage Boys to Read

The accepted wisdom of our day is that boys, though they may read voraciously in elementary and early middle school, often cease to read on their own or only read in a very disengaged way throughout middle and high school. Though there are many factors that cause this phenomenon, (home atmosphere, cultural expectations, etc.) I believe that one of the biggest reasons boys quit reading is that they aren’t finding anything to interest them. After enough poetry of the likes of Oliver Wendell Holmes and books trying to get them to care about poor little boys like Pip, it may be good to balance their reading diet with something that may be more appealing to their appetite. My solution: plunk that boy down in front of The Song of Roland, or Beowulf, or The Iliad.

Imagine if high school boys encountered literature not like this:

“Build thee more stately mansions, O my soul,
As the swift seasons roll!
Leave thy low-vaulted past!
Let each new temple, nobler than the last,
Shut thee from heaven with a dome more vast,
Till thou at length art free,
Leaving thine outgrown shell by life's unresting sea!”
(“The Chambered Nautilus”, by Holmes)

But like this:

“Idomeneus stabbed Erymas in the mouth with the pitiless
bronze, so that the brazen spearhead smashed its way clean through
below the brain in an upward stroke, and the white bones splintered,
and the teeth were shaken out with the stroke and both eyes filled up
with blood, and gaping he blew a spray of blood through the nostrils
and through his mouth, and death in a dark mist closed in about him.”
(The Iliad, book 16)


Mom said…
But,Rick,that sounds like the kind of book I would like. And I really do think everyone should read Ashamed of the Gospel. Tis a most excellent book!