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The joy of reading

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Of all of my memories of school as a small child, all things related to books and reading and being read to are some of the richest in my treasure chest. I loved paper, the sound of a library book with its heavy plastic protective cover closing with a soft yet decisive thud, and carrying a stack of books to the librarian's desk with my mother by my side getting ready for summer reading. I remember certain books with peculiar clarity such as Danny and the Dinosaur, those little Dick and Jane books, and Harold and the Purple Crayon. The Story of Doctor Dolittle was especially dear to me, for when I read that book I created fantastically realistic, animated pictures in my imagination. Years later, even today, when I recall reading that story the pictures I created in my mind are more realistic to me than material world we all agree that we see.
For My Knitting Readers: I will not be having any more sales on my pattern downloads for the foreseeable future ... well, that is after one that I am announcing right now. Sorry this is that last one, but at least you get this one last chance. Get two free knitting pattern downloads when you buy four (excludes "Three Scrumptious Christmas Stockings" combo pattern). Use code: LASTSALE at checkout when you shop at my website (not the Etsy store) between now and end of business on April 1, 2010.
Another vivid memory is that of our school librarian coming to our classroom to read aloud to us in first,  second and third grade. She was a very sweet older lady and I remember watching her throat as she read the stories because of the way her loose skin moved as she spoke the words. It was all a part of the experience, and I ate up every sensation I could discover related to books and reading. Our granddaughter, Little Sweet Pea is one year old now, and during her first year her relationship with books was all about eating them. Not even the super heavy duty books meant for babies were safe from her little mouth and lightening fast little hands.  I love this photo of her with Dan (known affectionately in our home as "Dan The Hightway Patrol Man"--the initial caps being a very important characteristic of the pet name) with a book of nursery rhymes he gave her as a gift. The attempt to eat and devour books changed suddently last week when I was reading a paperback (Sweater Quest: My Year of Knitting Dangerously by Adreinne Martini); it was a completely cool experience between Sweet Pea and I. It all began when I had her in my lap while holding the paperback open with one hand and extending my arm fully out to keep the book out of her grasp should she lunge for it. She noticed that my head was turned in the direction of the book and that my eyes were intently focused on it. Leaning forward, she slowly and deliberately turned her head toward me and got her own eyes directly in the line in which mine were pointed. Then she just smiled at me. It was the sweetest moment, and so clever of her. I realized we had a little opportunity right then and there for me to teach her something about what a book really is -- not a giant teething biscuit, but something bigger and better with more long range potential. I showed her the cover and said, "book". Then I opened the book and showed her the tiny printed words inside and said, "words" and gave a simple explanation that when she is a little bit older she will learn to look at words and know what they mean and that then she will be able to "hear" other people's thoughts and stories and learn some cool stuff. She opened her eyes wide and gave a look of new found appreciation for the thing called "book". I closed the book again and showed her the cover, telling her the word for that as well. Then I pointed out the picture on the cover of balls of yarn and, pointing to each ball of yarn separately I said, "yarn, yarn, yarn," etc. She was fascinated and pointed to each ball of yarn in turn. As I continued to read the book over the next few days I would let her touch and hold it, examine the cover, look inside. She did not try to eat it, fling it, or mangle the pages. It was awesome to see the transformation in this one year old child on the subject of books: she learned to respect a book and treat it right and to let that book give her some of what it had to offer. I think that is the thing with books, they have so much to give us. I love the feeling of excitement when standing in front of a well-stocked library shelf, knowing there is knowledge and enchantment ready for the picking in those beautiful, wonderfully bound treasures. Each book represents a little universe all its own, contained within the covers when the book is closed and dancing out magically on ethereal bands of thought and light when the cover is opened up. A couple of nights ago I gave my daughter (Sweet Pea's mommy) a break when little Sweet Pea was having a hard time with teething. In an effort to distract her from her worries I showed her a book my sister gave me one Mother's Day many years ago. It is a smallish, but not tiny, picture book titled "Motherhood" and features a nice collection of mother and child shots in black and white of various wild and domestic animals. She and I looked through the first several pages together and I called out the various animal names, making a big dramatic deal of each one and laughing at any comical shots. We came to a page with a couple of shots of gorillas and I started slowly saying, "gor-i-lla" in a deep, funny and dramatic voice. Sweet Pea just loved that and came up with a funny squealing response to each of my ""gor-i-lla"s. I returned her to her mommy, along with the book, and the two of them looked quite precious sitting together looking through the book. At one point Sweet Pea started trying to crawl inside the book, which gives you an idea just how much she liked it. So now she gets something about what a book is, a bit of an idea of the treasures they hold inside. Over the coming year I plan to create a set of alphabet/phonics cards for her in watercolor. I have pictured the cards in my mind and am looking forward to the artistic aspect of it so very much. I will actually create a large watercolor painting featuring all of the letters of the alphabet and then use that to create the individual letter cards for teaching and learning phonics. You see, when Sweet Pea is a little more than two I will have the honor of teaching her phonics, as my daughter has graciously given me the task of teaching her to read. Oh, the fun we will have! Being a grandmother rocks like nothing else has rocked before. Now, back to Sweater Quest, I was given a copy of it by the publisher so that I could read it and review it for you, my reader. It was an interesting read for me, because the author went on a quest to knit an item that I would not have any interest in knitting personally. However, the book is not so much about the sweater or even the knitting of the sweater. The story she weaves is really much more about knitters and the vast explosion of global community the Internet has opened up to we needle crafters who used to knit mostly in solitude or very tiny groups.  For me, her book is a celebration of the wonderful friendships and intricate web of knitting and fiber related community we are all so lucky to share online. In her quest, Adrienne visits with and interviews some of the greater voices of knitting (among them Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, Kay Gardiner, and Ann Meador Shayne). I enjoyed learning more about who these ladies are, why they knit, etc. but spoken from outside of their own blogs, books, and speeches. I found it surprising and entertaining to think I was going to read a book about the knitting of a sweater and to go instead on a traveling adventure, visiting with thoughtful unpretentious knitting leaders on their turf. Adrienne is a funny writer with that self-deprecating humor that has come to be the trademark of many contemporary knitting writers. She pulls off the humor well while also putting out an interesting bit of knitting history (Fair Isle knitting and Alice Starmore specifically) and, of course, the interviews I described above. Not being a Fair Isle knitter, or even an aspiring Fair Isle knitter, I had never heard of Alice Starmore (you will learn about her in the book if you are also not familiar with the name). Now however, after reading Sweater Quest, I think I know more about her than I want to ... no criticism of either Ms. Starmore or Adrienne Martini intended. Next week I will interview Adrienne (Tuesday, March 30th) and will offer a write up of the interview on a subsequent blog.  As a fellow Western New York Knitter Blogger, I am looking forward to meeting her over the phone and learning more about her, then sharing that with you. So you are aware, I have two brand new, fresh copies of Sweater Quest available as give-aways for any readers interested in trying for a win. If you don't knit, you still might enjoy the book because it is written to serve both knitters and non-knitters with an interesting and entertaining read. There are two steps to entering my drawing for the book, the first is optional, the second is not. Adrienne, through her book, has begun a conversation about why it is that knitters knit. I think this conversation is worth expanding online to the broader knitting community.  My non-knitting readers might be interested in learning more about why it is that we do this thing called knitting.  So, my first request of you is that if you do knit, would you please leave a comment to this post stating why you knit. Second, to be in the running for one of the two give-away copies of the book, please follow this link and follow the easy instructions (it will only take a moment, I promise). You must enter the drawing by April 30, 2010.  I will hold a random drawing (using some kind of automatic random name generator) on or before May 10, 2010 and announce the winner on both this blog and The Knitting Blog shortly thereafter. Hope you have a beautiful weekend! ~firefly


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