a time to read…

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” –Ecclesiastes 3:1

Well, there may be a time to be born, die, plant, harvest, weep, laugh, mourn, and dance, but if I had been writing this passage, I probably would’ve added “a time to read”. But then again, it would need an opposite, and I’d hate to write that there would ever be a time to NOT read. So, there’s probably a good reason why I wasn’t involved in the writing of the inspired Word of God. Before you think I’m being completely sacrilegious, though, I do love this passage in the Bible. Mind, I don’t understand all of it (who can?) but in those times of tears and heartbreak, isn’t it a blessing to know that there will be times for laughter and song, someday? We were not promised a life with guaranteed ease and riches, no matter what the “prosperity gospel” folk say. But when the hard times hit, we can remember what it says here, that there IS a time for every purpose under God’s heaven.

I do think there should always be a time for reading, though, flippant as it may sound. And if you know me at all, if you see me anywhere, there’s probably a book lying around nearby. Of course, if you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I bought a Kindle, so I have tons of books at my fingertips. But I still love the feeling of an actual book, in my hand.

So, I’ve discovered that with a long day of taking care of several children, there obviously isn’t any time to read, so I should have plenty of time when the workday is over, right? As any mom will tell you, of course there isn’t. Even if you’re off the hook for watching the children at 5pm, there are still many other things to do. Laundry, correspondence, fixing and/or eating dinner, and many other things. And if you’re getting up at 6:30am, then you’re probably not staying up late. In fact, though I’m generally a night owl, you could say I’m out of practice, at present. I’m usually in bed before 10pm, because I’m wiped out. And since I’m not the actual mom, here, I can get a full night’s sleep, with no babies to look after in the middle of the night.

A week or so ago, I started to read (again) Andrew Breitbart’s new book, Righteous Indignation: Excuse Me While I Save the World!, which I officially started about a month ago, in the L.A. airport. I’ve been trying to finish it, ever since, but with a few minutes over breakfast and a few minutes in the evening (if I’m not too tired), I wasn’t getting too far. Since I could normally read it in one day, this is unheard of for me.

Then, while putting some toys back on a shelf, in one of the bedrooms, I got a closer look at the eldest daughter’s bookshelf. Several books by L. M. Montgomery were quite familiar to me, and then a new one came to my attention. Well, if you got a glimpse of Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, as written on the spine of a book, wouldn’t you pick it up, wondering if you had read that right? Well, I did read it right, and flipped it over to read the blurb on the back, curious about this unknown book.

Written and illustrated by May Gibbs, during the early 1900s, the stories revolve around characters taken straight from the flora and fauna of Australia. Snugglepot and Cuddlepie are gumnut “babies”, while their little friend Ragged Blossom is meant to look like a flower from a gum tree. They have adventures both in the bush and under the ocean, with friends like Mr. Lizard, Obelia, and many other characters from Down Under. Kookaburras and native bears (koalas) take a part, with the occasional run-in with humans. The bad Banksia men, apparently based one the cones of a Banksia tree, and are regularly foiled in their dark plots. With their funny little illustrations, I can see how Aussie kids would enjoy growing up with these stories, as both the little people and the animals would all be familiar to their surroundings, in looks and dress.

The blurb on the back of the book says that these books are as important to Australia as The Wind in the Willows and Alice in Wonderland are to everyone, worldwide. I’ll agree with that on Wind in the Willows, as I actually like that story, having read it entirely,if only within the last year. I know, you’re shocked. I know most kids grew up with it, but I grew up with the short Disney-fied version of Mr. Toad’s tale, and I’ve never liked Mr. Toad, particularly. But if you’ve never read the version of this book, as illustrated by Robert Ingpen, then you need to. Actually, any book illustrated by Ingpen, for that matter. But if I’d been reading The Wind in the Willows regularly, as a child, I think I probably would’ve started reading Redwall sooner, too. And then my mom would’ve had an even harder time getting me out of the bookstores or libraries.

But now that I’ve pumped up Robert Ingpen, I probably need to try reading Alice in Wonderland, with Ingpen illustrating, and see if I like it any better. He did illustrate it, I’m not pipe dreaming, here. I’ve always found Alice very weird, almost too weird, and not just because of the original Disney movie. I happen to like the new Tim Burton version, by the way. Personally, I think Lewis Carroll was on something, when he wrote it, which is probably why I think the team of Tim Burton, Johnny Depp, and Helena Bonham-Carter was so splendid for the new movie. Feel free to differ, I still liked it. But maybe I’ll have to prove my own rule, by trying to read the Robert Ingpen version.

Anyway, Snugglepot and Cuddlepot are amusing little characters, and the illustrations are sweet, so any child could happily have them read aloud, regularly. The bad guys are just bad enough, without scaring the dickens out of the little ones, and the good guys are fun and mischievous. And little things like why bush babies can survive under water… well, these things don’t matter, in a fairytale.

Now that I’ve finished that book, maybe I’ll be able to finish Breitbart’s book. Yes, I can jump from politics to children’s literature with absolutely no trouble. I should be glad that I resisted getting a book at the store, today, called Woe is ‘I’, for grammar freaks, but written in such a fun and interesting manner that I’d have been happy reading my way through it. Dani, I thought of you, while looking at it. I shall try to continue to resist, when I go in the bookstore. If it doesn’t sell, though, I’m betting it’ll be coming home with me from Australia, next May.

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