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What the Kindle has Taught Me About Kid's Books...

I finally caved and got a Kindle. This came as a surprise to quite a few people because I have always been one of those bookworms who would defend the smell of a newly opened book to the death. I used to be the book snob who scorned Kindle, Kindle users, and any form of electronic book.

I loved the feel and smell of books too much. Ah, the memories of sneaking books up to my room as a kid so I could read all night, into the early hours of the morning. Even as a tired and uber-busy college student, I never left home without at least one non-science "brain candy" book or two. Sure my back took a hit over the years with all the books I tended to keep in my backpack, but that never stopped me from doing what I did best...reading. I left so many books at home every time I moved in college that my dad was forced to buy a bookcase. This baby filled up fast, and before we knew it...my dad was off to buy another bookcase.

When I moved into my first unfurnished apartment, I bought two bookcases (a large one and a smaller one) to make space for even more books that I had not yet brought home to my dad's. These bookcase purchases were AFTER I had banned myself from buying any more books. Yet, for every book I ended up borrowing at the library, I would end up buying more books from the racks in the front. How could I not purchase Pride and Prejudice and Zombies at the library when they were selling to for a measly $.75?!? Books are, and will probably always be, one of my biggest weaknesses.

At the end of the semester, I decided to treat myself in an effort to make myself feel a little bit better about the neverending PhD blues. I narrowed down my possibilities to two things (after axing a previous idea to buy all the Sandman series books): violin or Kindle.
Sorry, Neil.
(You gorgeous, gorgeous man....and, for the record, one of my favorite contemporary authors.)
I gave up on the piano as a child and never took up any other instrument. As far as chorus went, I was a decent enough singer...but just couldn't remember the notes to save my life. I've literally played it by ear for years when it came to music. Therefore, getting a violin would have not only cost a small fortune for the instrument and maintenance alone...but I would have also had to learn notes. That would mean countless hours of music note memorization. Forget that. 

I leaned towards Kindle because I had been sent some pdf versions of books from two authors (stay tuned for reviews). I cannot read books on the computer without a gallon of Visine and a bottle-full of Excedrin at hand...and I did not feel like killing a bunch of trees to print out several hundred pages of a book that I would end up tossing. I already have enough scientific paper print-outs and powerpoint slide print-outs cluttering my room...there was no use adding more. 

In the end, the Kindle won. As soon as I got it, I discovered just how many free books there are on amazon.com. I also discovered all of the free books and pdf's I could obtain from the Gutenberg project, and a few other sources. Most of the books are extremely old, but they are classics. Nothing like a good Mark Twain novel to get you through the doldrums of the subway. Among the many (and I do mean MANY) books I ended up downloading, one of my favorites is a children's book of Saints from the 1800s. 

This book is written well and it brings so many obscure saints to life in a way that reminds me of how Tolkien brought the elves and hobbits to life in his works. To make things even more awesome, there's no sugar-coating the harsh realities of life in these stories. The language the author employed is SAT-quality, and the characters are real. There's no "everything about life is great" sentimentality, and there's no Hannah Montana-esque "every kid can be a rock star if you just believe in yourself" mentality here. Let's face it, not everyone is cut out to be a rock star.

These stories in this Saints book are realistic because the people in them aren't perfect. They are just like you and me. They have the same imperfections, the same struggles, the same attitudes, you name it. One of the best parts of this book is that there isn't a touch of moral relativism in them. What's wrong is wrong and what's right is right. Doing the wrong thing has consequences and doing the right thing does not always bring immediate rewards. Forget wishy-washy stories about unicorns and selfish dreams of rockstardom...this book features selfless people who live humble lives and care for their fellow man. 

This book, needless to say, has been a breath of fresh air for someone tired of reading contemporary literature. Besides a few rare gems here and there, our current top-seller lists have pretty much stagnated in recent times. At least, they have done so in my book (pun unintended). A brief glance in the young adult section of any bookstore will have nothing but vampires, sex, people wanting to be famous, sex, vampires, werewolves, sex, supernatural powers of some sort, unrealistic dreams coming true, sex, and more vampires. There's more to life than sex...regardless of what Cosmopolitan and half of the chick-lit out there will tell you. There's more to life than being famous (just ask all those unhappy celebrities). As for the vampires...well, they've been a little overplayed in the past 5 years or so...so please just get rid of them once and for all. As for those rockstar dreams books....well....I'm all for working hard to make your dreams come true, but if I see another book or TV show that is based on some kid becoming an overnight singing sensation....I'm going to start writing my own books for kids. 

The saints book I am reading is truly a thing from a past where religion was practiced freely without reprisal from the PC department. It was written in a time where children were raised to be polite members of society and not animals. Yes, I said it. We seem to be raising animals these days. A trip to FYE today confirmed this much. A kid, for no reason, starts screaming because she didn't get a toy or something. I didn't hear what caused the issue, because the first thing I heard was this kid start screaming at the top of her lungs. I then see a dad with kid in tow, trying to get out of the aisle...only to return with the kid whose fit was miraculously cured with her dad's "fine, but you can only have one Angry Bird toy...only ONE." I didn't even bother to look back. 

I can only imagine what my parents would have done in that situation. Unlike the kids these day, I was taught better than to always expect to get what I wanted. I remember having only one major crying fit in a store...but I never did it again because I KNEW that I had disappointed my parents. Their disappointment in me during that one brat attack was enough to set me straight for the rest of my life. Kids, these days, other story. There are too many parents these days that cave far too many times...and they are raising monsters as a consequence. The Occupy Wall Street rubbish is evidence enough of this sense of "entitlement."

Which brings me back to that saints book. I keep getting off topic here, I know. This book is not something you see in a typical book store...let alone a library. Yet, books such as this one should be readily accessible to children....even if these books aren't about saints. Even the original Grimm fairy tales should be given to kids. Yes, Cinderella's stepsisters cut up their feet and die at the end of the story...and yes the Little Mermaid feels intense pain whenever she walks on land...but stories such as these teach us about suffering and sacrifice. The stories are bittersweet reminders of what real life is like. Not everything works out. Yet, there are still plenty of reasons out there for you to keep trying.  This book I am reading may do wonders in instilling a sense of work ethic, humility, charity, and even self-reliance in children that are otherwise taught to rely on parents for material goods. Books such as these may help children avoid the empty promises offered to them by shows advocating sex, a certain weight range, monetary wealth, and love for celebrities that any self-respecting parent would NEVER allow under their roof. There are SO many people on TV that I would never allow in my house....which is why I refuse to watch them on TV, listen to their music, and/or read about. 

I may be strapped for time, but I would love to one day rewrite a book such as the one I am reading now. If I ever quite the PhD madness, I think I may have to work on illustrating some more badass saint pictures and compile them in a book very similar to the one I am reading now. Perhaps the expired copyright may make it possible for me to just take all the stories in it and modernize the vocabulary a bit so the stories become a tad more reader-friendly. I won't change any of the original messages and lessons in these stories. They're awesome and do not need any form of reworking. However, some of the language is a tad outdated. This book was, after all, written well over a century ago...along with some other great classics.

There are good kids out there that probably will make it out of childhood with some level of humanity...but the amount of bratty kids and indulgent parents I see out on a typical shopping trip these days is pretty worrisome. I dread to think how these kids will one day become functioning members of society if they (even as teenagers) resort to whining whenever they want something. I've stopped watching most of the garbage on TV these day...but I have a feeling that this garbage TV is doing more parenting than some of the parents out there. This is particularly worrisome when you see just how much TV, internet, magazines, and garbage literature out there emulate the trashy people and lifestyles.

Oh, the Kindle...

XKCD comics
I'm going to swallow my pride here and just say it. I do like the Kindle I got and my back is still thanking me for getting the e-book version of the Latin-English Douay-Rheims. It weighs so much less than just the new testament I'd been lugging around for the past few months. 
"But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. She had won the victory over herself. She loved her Kindle. I am a traitor to my beloved stacks of books."
 - December 23, 2011 Facebook Status


Pax Vobiscum


1 comment:

  1. Humm, and what might this saints book be called?

    ReplyDelete