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Books I

Let's start with literature. Lately, I've been re-reading some classic books from my childhood--just for shits and giggles, you know. See if they still hold up now. So many things don't, you know. So many things you like as a kid seem really stupid when you get older. However, I do have a couple books that stand up to the test of time:

1. The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin. This was my favorite book from first through fifth grades. I did a book report on it every year (and by "did a book report" I don't mean turned in the same book report five times. I wrote new and increasingly complex reports every year. The only reason my fifth grade teacher caught on was because she was looking at the book and noticed on the sign-out card that I was the only one to have ever signed it out, and I'd signed it out six times in five years.) It's a mystery, and I think the indicated reading level is about fourth or fifth grade, but it still holds up now, since as an adult, I can read into it motives and between-the-lines commentary that I would never have noticed as a child. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants a quick, funny, interesting read. The movie, Get A Clue! is not so good, though is notable for an appearance by the very attractive Shane West as a blond, stuttering computer-genius in a wheelchair.

2. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. This book--about Milo, a boy who was always bored and never interested in anything--is a fantastic journey through the Lands of Wisdom. It's an allegory (at least I believe that's the world that I'm looking for) about being observant, taking joy in learning, and enjoying every day to its fullest. While probably best for a young audience, I know that reading it reminded me not to be so jaded and cynical. The animated film is pretty good, though tough to find.

3. Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli. This one doesn't stand up so well to the test of time. Aside from being totally unbelievable, the message (a good message, mind you, about not being prejudiced and about what makes a family and such) kind of whacks you over the head. I remember when I first read it, I thought of Maniac as some kind of romantic hero (I was, like, nine. What do you want from me?) but now he seems WAY too good to be true. There are still parts I enjoy (the house of two toasters and young Jeffrey's subsequent break-down, Cobble's Knot, the baby buffalo) but this one should probably be left to the younger set. There was some talk about making a film of this one, starring Elijah Wood, but it never came about.


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