Monday, June 16, 2008

The Boy in the Alamo

The Boy in the Alamo, by Margaret Cousins
(Corona Publishing Company, 1983)
[previously published in 1958 under the title We Were There at the Battle of the Alamo]

This is an engaging retelling of the story of the Alamo from the perspective of a 12 year old boy, Billy, who sneaks away to follow his older brother to fight with Colonel Crockett. The journey to the Alamo required much grit and determination from Billy. Then the reader is introduced to the area around the Alamo as well as they key characters, Davy Crockett, William Travis and Jim Bowie. The difficulty of the siege is well communicated as well as the desperation and determination of the Alamo defenders as they determine to stay put and fight for the freedom of Texas. The gruesomeness of the battle is clear though not overplayed. Billy survives the battle beign considered one of the children and he manages to accompany Sam Houston when he finally defeats Santa Anna.

This is a good basic story which recounts history and emphasizes some good qualities like courage, chivalry, manhood and perseverance. Again it is not at the Douglas Bond or C. S. Lewis level, but it is a good story.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

Living with Books

(Note: I actually wrote this more than a week ago, but I have left the time references as they are)

Not only do I want to read good books to my children, I am also seeking to create a world of books around my children, so that they become accustomed to living with books. I want books to be regular companions, a part of the regular furniture of life, not occasional emissaries from outside, but regular welcome guests- indeed members of the household! C. S. Lewis commented on the impact on him of growing up in a house with books around and available.

I have seen this again this week. I have been listening to The Man in the Iron Mask on audiobook, and as is typical for me I have related portions of it to my boys. I told them how slow and even irritating the early portions of the book were and I have related some of the more interesting portions. One day they asked if they could listen to a bit with me as we rode. I consented, knowing that the book was too complicated for them to fully appreciate, but willing to let them try it. They began to ask to listen each time we rode, admitting that they did not understand much of it but they liked to hear the narrator pronounce the French names and they picked up pieces of the story. Then yesterday, as we were beginning an errand my 6 year old said, “Yeah! Man in the Iron Mask!” He especially understands little, but for whatever reason it is exciting to him to think of listening with Daddy to his book. For that I am glad.

Later on the same errand we stopped by my office to get a book I had accidentally left there. While I was gathering things at my desk, my 6 year old began perusing my shelves. He pulled out a book and asked, “What is this one, Daddy?” I told him it was Martin Luther’s comments on the Psalms. He responded with all seriousness , “I think I’ve heard of that one.” Then he pulled another one down and asked about it. It was Luther’s commentary on Romans. This time he said, “I have heard of him.” He then was fascinated by a thick 800 page book which was about the Puritans. I don’t know what all was going on in his mind, but the fact that he found it interesting and fun to pull books off my shelves and to ask me about them pleased me greatly.

I can’t help but think that this is all good preparation for him to enjoy reading as he gets older.