Tag Archives: Childhood

Gray, Scott Fitzgerald: A Space Between (The Endlands) (2011)

A Space Between 2
Cover design by (studio)Effigy, from an image by Jose A.S. Reyes.
The background to the main image is the cover art for A Prayer for Dead Kings and Other Tales
(in which the story first appeared), which is an illustration by Alex Tooth

I love it when I get such detailed information on the cover art. The knife is very appropriate to A Space Between.

Scott Fitzgerald is a demanding name to give your child. Talk about pressure. Fortunately Scott Fitzgerald Gray manages to live up to the expectations of his name.

A Space Between is a dark short story. Talk about dysfunctional family. Love, secrets, betrayal, ambition and murder are all part of the game.

Charan and Jalina make an interesting set of siblings. Their love/hate relationship is what drives A Space Between. Add to that the accidental death of their father and we have the recipe for an interesting tale.

I found myself liking Charan and Jalina. Their love and the murder are very much against societal mores, but society is a fluid thing shaped by its members. Their discovery of two magical artifacts changes their ability to see each other.

It was strange reading A Space Between. Gray’s writing was so beautiful I forgot to pay attention to what I was reading. I got caught up in the flow of the words. I have said this before and probably will again: There are some advantages to being within the autism spectrum. Because my “thing” is words I get the pleasure of finding myself lost in them. A Space Between was a word autists/aspergian dream.

For those of you who aren’t that lucky rest assured that the quality of Gray’s writing is high.


You can catch Scott Fitzgerald Gray at facebook / twitter / google.


  • Print Length: 35 pages
  • Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
  • Publisher: Insane Angel Studios (May 18, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0051OR1FM

 

Flagg, Fannie: Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man (1992)

Cover photo: Corbis

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man was first published as Coming Attractions in 1981. I just had to add the cover for Coming Attractions because it represents coming of age so perfectly. That is in part what Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man is about – coming of age. Daisy Fay gets a typewriter from her grandmother. For those of you who are too young to understand the concept, this is what a typewriter looks like:

I learned to type on one of these and I imagine Fannie Flagg did too. That was what we had to work with in 1981.

What Fannie Flagg does this time is take us into the life of Daisy Fay. Idyllic is not exactly the word I would use for it. Instead we are shown a resilient girl that grows up in a troubled family. Her way of coping with the realities of her life bring us hilarious and sad situations. She gets into trouble time and again. Sometimes with good cause and sometimes due to the idiocy of the adults around her.

Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man is yet another example of the quality of Fannie Flagg’s writing. I think this is the one that my dad liked the most, probably because of the similarities to his own life. Reading Fannie Flag leaves me with hope for a better future and love for the characters I have just said goodbye to.

Brinkley, Douglas: The Wilderness Warrior – Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America (2010)

Theodore Roosevelt Collection, Harvard College Library; Theodore Roosevelt in Arizona in 1913.

Once you remove the protective cover of the book, you’ll see that the whole thing is made to look old. The pages are layered, the font is old-fashioned and the pictures are (of course) black and white. Some biographies collect all of their photographs/pictures on a few pages, but I prefer the way Brinkley and his publishers have done it. This way they fit with the text and illustrate the author’s point. “The Wilderness Warrior” is more than an interesting looking book, it is also the story of Theodore (Teddy) Roosevelt’s great interest in the preservation of nature.

Teddy “teddy-bear” Roosevelt (1858-1919) was the 26th president of the United States. Being 42 years old at the time of his swearing in, made him the youngest president ever. Nature played an important role to him from early on. As a sickly child, Teddy was home-schooled. To combat his asthma, Teddy chose physical activities as a way to combat the disease. His hyperactiveness probably played a large part in that choice. Later on he became an active hunter. He loved hunting and as a hunter he saw the need for preservation of hunting grounds. Through the power of the various offices he held, Teddy was able to promote this interest in nature and as president establish National parks.

Brinkley writes about Roosevelt in an engaging and interesting manner. He brings the man alive through pictures and personal anecdotes about Teddy. This is definitely a must-read for anyone interested in US History.

Nexø, Martin Andersen: Pelle, the Conqueror (1906-10)

“Pelle, the Conqueror” begins on the first of May 1877. Lasse Karlsson from Tommelia in Sweden arrives with his son Pelle at Bornholm in Denmark. They are fleeing poverty and starvation and try to find a decent living. Instead they are treated as indentured servants. As Pelle learns Danish, life becomes easier, but he and his father continue to be treated as outsiders. They refuse to give up their dream of a better life in Denmark.

In one sense you could call “Pelle” auto-biographical. Nexø (1869-1954) knew poverty from the inside. When he was 8, his family moved to Bornholm in hopes of having a safer life. Through this inside experience we get to follow Pelle and his father and friends through tragedy, comedy and success. There is an optimism inherent in these four books (mine is an omnibus) that has us identifying with Pelle’s fight to conquer his life.

Nexø writes beautifully. He brings the reader into the text and gives of himself to us. The journey through Pelle’s life is an amazing journey from a life of terrible circumstances into a life of possibilities. With warmth and generosity my heart was warmed by the excellence of Nexø’s text.


Barnes & Nobles seems to have the best price on this omnibus, consisting of 4 books: Boyhood; Apprenticeship; The Great Struggle; Daybreak.

Project Gutenburg offers Pelle the Conqueror.
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Pelle Erobreren is a Danish/Swedish movie from 1987 based on the book
1988:
  • Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film
  • Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film

My childhood literature

After writing about what got my two sons reading, I started thinking about the books that I read as a child. I have no idea what my parents read to me. But I do remember some of what I read myself. Getting a book for x-mas or b-days was a gift highlight. Usually we got practical gifts, but every once in a while someone found it in their hearts to give a book-hungry child just that. Even way back then I was addicted.

My parents had books from their own childhood that I got to read. These were everything from Jules Verne and Rudyard Kipling to the Bobsey Twins. My heroes were Pippi Langstrømpe (Longstocking) and Nancy Drew. If I wanted to read something comforting and cozy, I would choose animal stories or Norway’s own Anne Cath. Vestly. Her books are wonderful for children, describing life as it is without sugar-coating anything.

If I wanted to be frightened, I would read folk tales. The Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen were favorites. I would sneak read HCA because my parents had a lovely leather-bound edition of his tales, and we were not allowed to touch it without permission. Folk tales are gory, explicit and seldom “happily ever after”. Horror for children and adults would probably be an appropriate category to place them in.

Sometimes I tried to read the books my parents liked, but they weren’t all that interesting for a child. Madame Bovary and I Saw Him Die just didn’t appeal to me the same way Jungle Boy did.

There were many important lessons reading taught me. One was that it was OK to read a book twice. Nature was fascinating. Reading the end before I had finished the whole book was also just fine (no lightning strikes). If life got to be too much, a book would lighten the load. Subject matter, complexity or level did not matter. Help was to be found for a lonely little girl. No wonder I love books so much.

Gilbert, Martin: The Boys – Triumph Over Adversity (1996)

ForsideWhen I read “The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas” I was once again reminded of the story of 732 Jewish boys and girls whose story Martin Gilbert tells in his “The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity“. One book is from the viewpoint of someone standing outside the suffering while the other one is about the kids who went through hell. I’m not a believer in the many after-life versions of hell, but I am certainly a believer in the human ability to create hell for their fellow humans. In fact, we’re really creative in the many ways we cause others pain, and that worries me.

The Boys: Triumph Over Adversity tells such a story. This is the story of children who (along with their siblings and parents) were uprooted from their homes and dragged into the horrors of the Holocaust. These children were originally from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Their lives were the lives of ordinary children with loving parents. As they just below and above ten years old for the most part, these children had no understanding of all of the abrupt changes in their lives. From living in regular homes, they were stuffed into ghettos and then dragged to even worse circumstances.

And then it all ended. No more parents or siblings, all alone in the world after having endured what only few people in the world have had to endure.

After their liberation from the camps, they had to begin rebuilding their lives in Britain. Despite being physically and emotionally drained by their nightmare past, they drew strength from their group. After leaving their hostels, they remained a close-knit and devoted band of siblings. Their families having been destroyed, they created a family among themselves.

So many people ask themselves how something as terrible as the Holocaust could have happened. I doubt there is any one answer to that question. After all, we let history repeat itself all over the world. What I do believe is that we are all capable of becoming something we had never thought was possible. Ervin Staub in his “Roots of Evil” and Max Weber in his “On Bureaucracy” – Iron Cage both try to look at why people are dehumanized and warn us of the consequences.