Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Dashings and Crashings

I just borrowed Lloyd Alexander's The Black Cauldron from the library.

Now it's your turn to ask (incredulously), "Are you seriously telling me that you don't own that book? What credentials do you have to be blogging, let alone writing?"

Let me reassure you--I indeed own this book. I own, in fact, the whole series, but sadly all my books are in boxes at my in-law's house. We did a renovation a year ago, and we haven't retrieved the books. We finally cleaned out the garage, so we could get to the bookshelves, which are finally back in the house. It's a long story.

And, perhaps this book doesn't have the same weight for you as it does for me. Perhaps you would be able to utter the above question devoid of incredulity. But not me. This novel was my FIRST.

My brother read it to me before I could read. Reading was new to him, and at times he took long pauses as he wrestled with a word. I sat fuming. Couldn't he read faster? I had to know what happened next! My brother did voices for each of the characters. A voice for Taran, Assistant Pig-Keeper, for Fflewddur, for Eilonwy.

And a spectacularly guttural voice for Gurgi, to say fantastic things like, "Oh, great, brave, and wise master! Gurgi is thankful! His poor tender head is spared from terrible dashings and crashings!"

I think I can manage Taran (Assistant Pig-Keeper) and Fflewddur, and I know I've got Eilonwy down pat. But I think I'm going to have to call my brother to do the part of Gurgi. It just wouldn't be the same.

I always thought it normal for a big brother to read to his younger sister (my brother is only three years my senior), but once I had kids, I realized how spectacular that nightly routine really was. I owe my brother a debt of gratitude. Taran, Eilonwy and especially Gurgi, filtered through my brother's imagination, are the reason I write today. Thanks B!

Do you remember your First?


  1. The first novel type book I remember as having read on my own was The Boxcar Children. I remember being fascinated by these kids living on their own in an old railroad car. I picked up a copy of that book a few years ago. I've been meaning to read it again but haven't yet.

  2. I loved the Boxcar Children!

    And when the Bobbsey Twins got a puppy for Christmas--all was right in the world.

  3. The Boxcar Children! And it took many years before I found out it was the first in a series. But it's still my favorite.

    My brother was not a reader. My parents were not readers. Not sure where I sprang from, except my mom is a reader now. She just needed the right encouragement.

  4. It's so wonderful that you found a love for books even without immediate reading role models. Did you have a teacher, or a librarian who helped you, or did you just find it on your own?

  5. My 4th grade teacher sent a note home with me - which confused me mightily as I thought she liked me and I couldn't imagine what I'd done that was so wrong it required a note to my parents.

    It was a suggestion to buy me books as gifts. My first gift book was Mystery of the Whale Tattoo (Hardy Boys). That happened about two weeks after the mysterious note, so I only fretted myself to death waiting for the other shoe to drop for that long.

  6. I'm so happy about this teacher in your life--I remember you writing about this story once before, but for some reason I didn't connect it to this discussion. What an amazing teacher.

    I always loved seeing book-shaped gifts under the tree. Christmas afternoon we would all scatter to our rooms to read...
    Then one year, my brothers and I all gave books to our youngest, half-brother and I think he cried. I felt so sad for him, missing out on loving books. There was such a big age gap between us and him (18 years) that none of us were around to read to him when he was younger.

  7. Its funny, while there are several books that I remember reading or having read to me BEFORE I became interested in reading for myself, a decision my mom made changed my attitude toward reading entirely. I wanted to see a new movie that was coming out, but my mom made me read the book (and the book that preceded it) that the movie was based on (as it turned out, very poorly and loosely).

    I still remember vividly when we went to the town library and took out The Book of Three and The Black Cauldron, and I remember devouring them, The Castle of Llyr, Taran Wanderer and The High King like nothing I had ever read before. They were the first books I wanted to put down a bat and ball in favor of, and led me to many of the other books I love, like Alexander's Westmark series, and of course The Hobbit, which I am now reading aloud to my 9 and 6 year olds (and sometimes the 2 year old, when she sits still long enough!). I'm even doing my best at voices (though trying to distinguish between 13 different dwarfs is not easy).

  8. We have a rule about reading books before seeing the movie at our house, too. Although we happened to break it this summer, with the movie Nim's Island. And that movie was so imaginatively done, that it stood on it's own. The book was great too--we did read it.

    I love picturing you doing the dwarf voices. ;-) I'll call you if I need a fill-in Gurgi.