Archive for July, 2007

Review of Raising Demons, by Shirley Jackson

Wednesday, July 18th, 2007
Raising Demons

by Shirley Jackson


Reviewed July 16, 2007.
Academy Chicago Publishers, Chicago, 1985. Originally written in 1956. 310 pages.
Starred Review.

Few true stories are as hilarious as those told by Shirley Jackson about bringing up her four children. This book continues the fun begun in Life Among the Savages. I guarantee that any parent or anyone who knows some kids will get some good laughs and hearty chuckles out of this book.

Part of her brilliance is how she reproduces the voices of her children, each one distinct. Sally is probably the most entertaining, with her habit of repeating words and the outrageous stories she tells, like telling the milkman, “Mommy has gone away to Fornicalia. Where my grandma lives, grandma. Would you please like some breakfast?”

I love the following scene, which beautifully conveys a mother’s feelings of irritation and desperation when a neighbor girl, Amy, comes over:

If Sally’s refrain conversation is difficult to bear, Amy’s repetitive conversation is worse; where Sally repeats the vital word, Amy repeats the whole sentence; Sally is the only one in our family who can talk to Amy at all. “May I please play with Sally?” Amy was saying through the back door screen, “is Sally here so she can play with me?” 

Sally slid off her chair and made for the cookie jar. “Amy,” she shouted, “Daddy is going to take us swimming, swimming, and ask your mommy if you can come, your mommy.”

“My mommy,” said Amy solemnly, opening the screen door and joining Sally at the cookie jar, “doesn’t let me go swimming right now, because I have a cold. I have a cold, so my mommy doesn’t want me to go swimming, because I have a cold. I have a cold,” she told me, “so my mommy won’t let me go swimming.”

“Because she has a cold,” Laurie said helpfully. “See, she has a cold and so—”

“Laurie,” I said feverishly. “Sally and Amy, please take those cookies outdoors.

Their little “Beekman” is another great character. Here’s how he got his name:

Nothing is stable in this world. As soon as Barry was old enough to be regarded as a recognizable human being, with ideas and opinions, it became necessary for the other children to change him around. Since he was now too big to fit into a doll carriage, Jannie amused herself by dressing him in costume jewelry and ribbons. Sally sat on the floor next to the playpen and sang to him because, she said, it made him dance. Barry was clearly too formal a name, and we took to calling him B. B was too short, however, and he became Mr. B, then Mr. Beetle, and finally Mr. Beekman. he stayed Mr. Beekman until he was almost ready for nursery school, and then came around full circle, moving back to Mr. B, then B, and, at last, to Barry again. At one point he developed a disconcerting habit of answering no matter who was being called. Thus, dancing, and decked in ribbons, Beekman walked instead of creeping, and learned to drink from a cup.

Shirley Jackson has a beautiful ability to find the ludicrous in everyday family life. When they got a new car,

I went out and bought a new car-chair for Beekman, one that had a small steering wheel and gear-shift lever attached; when I put Beekman into his new car-chair he turned the steering wheel and said “Beep beep?” experimentally, and we all laughedd and told him he was a brave smart boy. by the end of a week I was no longer fumbling wildly for the brake pedal on the new car, and Beekman was manipulating his steering wheel and gearshift with such wild abandon and skillful maneuvering as to earn himself the title of Mad-Dog Beekman; I could not, at any time of the day or night, attempt to sneak the car out of the driveway without attracting Beekman’s attention, and he would hurl himself wildly at the doors and windows, calling out to wait a minute, he would be right there, and subsiding at last into hysterical terrors at my trying to drive without him.  

For my part, I found it extremely difficult to drive with dual controls, trying to ease around a tight corner with Beekman beside me shifting rapidly from high to reverse to second, swinging his wheel around sharply and yelling “Beep beep.” I used to try letting the car roll backward out of the driveway without starting the motor, but Beekman’s room was in the front and as soon as I got as far as the gateposts he would apparently catch some reflection of light and I would see his small infuriated face pressed against the window and hear the crash as Dikidiki hit the wall, and after a minute my husband or Laurie or Jannie or Sally would open the front door and call that I was to wait, they were just putting on Beekman’s jacket.

Usually, whenever Beekman drove, Sally wanted to come too. And whenever Sally came, Jannie thought she had better come along. And when Beekman and Sally and Jannie came, Laurie figured that we might just stop in at a movie or some such, and if we did he wanted to be along. As a result, whenever I went shopping in the new car, everyone came except my husband, who could not, for a long time, look at the new car without telling me how we were going bankrupt in style. One Saturday morning I almost got off without Beekman, who was learning from Sally how to cut out paper dolls, but before I was out of the driveway they were calling to me to wait a minute, and by the time I finally turned the car and headed off toward the big supermarkets I had all four of them with me, Sally accompanied by her dolls Susan and David and Patpuss, all dressed entirely in cleansing tissue, and carrying—although I did not know it when she got into the car—a pocketbook containing four pennies and a shilling stolen from her father’s coin collection.

I suppose I should have known that all was not going to go well when I found a parking space on main Street on Saturday at noon, with seventeen minutes paid for on the parking meter. Finding a parking space at all was so exceptional an occurrence that I wisely determined to disregard the fact that the car on my left—an out-of-state car, by the way, from some state where land is not so jealously parceled out as here in Vermont—was straddling the line. I eased my car in with only the faintest grazing sound, although it was immediately plain that if we were going to get out of the car at all, we were going to have to do it by sliding out the doors on the right-hand side.

“Jeepers,” Laurie remarked, gazing from his window at the car next to us, “cut it a little close, didn’t you?”

“It was Beekman,” I said nervously. “He kept pulling to the left.”

“Jeepers,” Laurie said to Beekman, “you want to watch where you’re going, kid.”

“Dewey, dewey,” said Beekman, this being a combination word he used for a series of connected ideas, roughly translatable as: Observe my latest achievement, far surpassing all my previous works in this line, a great and personal triumph representing perhaps the most intelligent progress ever accomplished by a child of my years. “Dewey,” said Beekman pleasurably.

Later, when Barry was a bit older and Sally had learned to read,

With three reading children in the house, competition over Barry, who could be read to, was very heavy. I still retained my post as bedtime reader—I began again with The Wizard of Oz—but Laurie and Jannie and Sally found themselves sometimes all reading aloud from different enticing works, each hoping to lure Barry who moved, basking, from one to another. For a little while, Jannie forged ahead through a brilliant imaginative stroke; she refused to read aloud, and offered, instead, to tell stories made up out of her own head. This began the Jefry stories, which were about a little boy named Jefry who had an elephant who was called Peanuts becaue he ate so many . . . “What?” said Barry. “Cabbages,” said Jannie firmly. Jefry had a bear named Dikidiki, just like Barry, and Jefry irked Sally so considerably that she brought out her boy doll Patpuss, renamed him Jefry, announced that he was her little brother, and commenced telling him stories about a little imaginary boy named Barry, who had a bear named Dikidiki just like Jefry. This became the competing Barry series. One evening Laurie came staggering in from the Story Hour in the kitchen, and announced to his father that he had just made up a story about a little boy named Dikidiki who had two imaginary bears, Barry and Jefry, and we had to make a rule that stories must be told one at a time, and last no more than two minutes by the kitchen clock.

I like to read this book when I need to lighten up and laugh. Even though it was written when you could put a penny in a parking meter, life with kids is still pretty much the same. But Shirley Jackson makes you laugh about it, which is a lot more fun than screaming in frustration.

Review of Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! by Mo Willems

Saturday, July 14th, 2007
Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late!

by Mo Willems
pigeon_stay_up_late.jpg


Reviewed July 14, 2007.
Hyperion Books for Children, New York, 2006. 36 pages.
Starred Review.

My husband used to say that a good book for a toddler is one that ends with someone asleep. In fact if we read such a book to our older son, we could watch him develop dark circles under his eyes and become much sleepier and easier to tuck into bed.

Don’t Let the Pigeon Stay Up Late! is another delightful and fun book along the lines of Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! This one deals with an activity that toddlers would really like to do—stay up late.

I never have met a toddler who seriously wanted permission to drive a bus, but once my son threw a temper tantrum for an hour in the middle of the night because he wanted to “stay up all night and all day”!

This book gives kids a chance to tell the Pigeon that he can’t stay up late, instead of being on the other end of it. They can easily see that the Pigeon is getting sleepy, and this time he’s the one who screams, “I’M NOT TIRED!”

It’s almost formulaic, with some pages having exactly the same look as those in Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! However, with toddlers, being formulaic makes a book all the more delightful as they know what to expect.

I was staying with a friend for a couple of months after I moved, and she has a 4-year-old son and a 2-year-old daughter. I loved trying out the Pigeon books on them. I was surprised when the 4-year-old was the one who most enjoyed telling the Pigeon, “No!” but the books were a big hit with both kids. Their favorite pages in both books were definitely the full-out temper tantrum pages. Michelle would often open the book to that page and ask me to say it. (Of course, if I kicked and screamed that made it a lot more fun!)

Every child should get a chance to tell this Pigeon what to do. I don’t think they will necessarily understand that the Pigeon is doing the same things they do, but they will enjoy the chance to be the one with the authority.

Review of Rosa, by Nikki Giovanni

Thursday, July 12th, 2007
rosa.jpg 
Rosa

by Nikki Giovanni
illustrated by Bryan Collier


Reviewed July 9, 2007.
Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2005. 32 pages.

I read this book as an assignment for my graduate library science class, Resources for Children. We were looking at Caldecott and Coretta Scott King winners. Rosa was the winner of the 2006 Coretta Scott King Award for Illustration. The book was also a Caldecott Honor book.

Reading this book and looking at the pictures, it was easy to see why it won the award. We see Rosa Parks, an ordinary person going about her day. At home, she was caring for her mother, getting over the flu. At work, she was the most skilled seamstress in the shop.

We see the whole process as Rosa looks for a seat on the bus and only finds one in the neutral section, where both blacks and whites can sit. When the bus driver asks her to give up her seat, we see a tired woman who’s had a long enough day and simply decides she’s not going to do it.

The pictures portray Rosa’s quiet strength, as well as the glares of people on the bus. The story explains how she decided to keep sitting, even though it meant arrest—and how the news of that arrest spread and began a bus boycott that changed an evil law.

The book includes a striking fold-out section as the protesters finally, without violence, achieved their goal. The pictures give you a sense of having been there, among ordinary people, trying to put an end to injustice.

Find this review on the main site at:

www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/rosa.html

Review of Fairest, by Gail Carson Levine

Thursday, July 12th, 2007
Fairest

by Gail Carson Levine


Reviewed July 9, 2007.
HarperCollinsPublishers, New York, 2006. 326 pages.
Starred Review.

Fans of Ella Enchanted, of which I am one, will love Gail Carson Levine’s latest book, loosely based on the fairy tale of Snow White. In fact, the story involves the king who married Ella’s stepsister, Ivi. It turns out he was king of neighboring Ayortha, the home country of Ella’s roommate, where everyone loves to sing and those with beautiful voices are honored.

Aza has one of the most beautiful voices of all, and she finds she can do amazing things with her voice. Unfortunately, she’s terribly ugly.

When Aza gets a chance to go to the king’s castle, the new queen takes special notice of her. Then the king gets injured, and the queen is in charge. She seems only concerned that people think her beautiful. The queen has a mirror. When Aza sees her own reflection in the mirror, she is changed, astonishingly beautiful.

This book doesn’t follow the fairy tale it’s based on as closely as Ella Enchanted does. But the elements of Snow White are there, woven into a story of beauty and power and love and deception. Gail Carson Levine has done it again!

Review of River Secrets, by Shannon Hale

Thursday, July 12th, 2007

by Shannon Hale


Reviewed 7/7/07.
Bloomsbury, New York, 2006. 369 pages.
Starred Review. I never missed working at the library more than the day my writing buddies told me that Shannon Hale had a new book out. That meant it was already published, and I hadn’t bought it yet! I was appalled.

River Secrets is Shannon Hale’s third book about the kingdom of Bayern. They are written so that you can read each one without reading the previous ones, but my reaction is: Why would you want to? All of the books are fabulous and pull the reader into a fantasy world—but a fantasy world that deals with real issues like war and peace, love and hatred.

River Secrets focuses on Razo, who seemed something of a clown figure in the other books. Now he’s been chosen as part of the King’s Own to escort a new ambassador to the enemy city of Tira.

Bayern has conquered Tira, but can the peace hold? And can Enna keep from using her power of fire to kill? But if she does keep from it, then who is burning these bodies that the soldiers keep finding? Most of all, can Razo trust the beautiful Tiran who seems to have a special relationship with the river?

Shannon Hale’s Princess Academy won a well-deserved Newbery Honor Award last year. If you liked that book, I highly recommend the three books about Bayern: The Goose Girl, Enna Burning, and River Secrets. You won’t be able to get enough of Shannon Hale’s beautiful writing.

Review of North by Northanger, by Carrie Bebris

Thursday, July 5th, 2007
North by Northanger

(Or, The Shades of Pemberley)

by Carrie Bebris

Reviewed July 5, 2007.
Forge, New York, 2006. 318 pages.

This is the third “Mr. and Mrs. Darcy” mystery by Carrie Bebris, extending the story begun by Jane Austen in Pride and Prejudice. This one was by far my favorite. In this book, Elizabeth is expecting a child, and she finds a letter from Mr. Darcy’s mother, who died giving birth to Mr. Darcy’s sister Georgiana.

This book is well done. We get a puzzling mystery, where Mr. Darcy himself is accused of stealing diamonds. We get a perplexing experience at Northanger Abbey and even a hidden treasure. We meet again some characters from Jane Austen’s book, Northanger Abbey.

But most fascinating of all is getting to know the earlier Mrs. Darcy through her letters, especially those exchanged with Mrs. Tilney, the mother of the hero of Northanger Abbey. It’s fun to think how Elizabeth would have been affected by the reputation of her predecessor—but then to see her come to peace with that memory as she learns the heart of her husband’s mother.

This book gives you the chance to spend more time with two delightful people. You get to experience two happy people in love, facing the birth of a child at a time when giving birth could be dangerous, with perplexing difficulties to untangle as well.

The first two books in the series went a little too far with supernatural explanations of puzzling events for my taste. But this book had only a hint of such things, and they added atmosphere with the loving spirit of the former Mrs. Darcy.

Thanks to my friend Stephanie for urging me to try the third book in the series!

Review of Sink Reflections, by Marla Cilley

Monday, July 2nd, 2007

Go to this review at www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/sink_reflections.html 

Sink Reflections Overwhelmed? Disorganized? Living in CHAOS? The FlyLady’s Simple FLYing Lessons Will Show You How to Get Your Home and Your Life in Order—and It All Starts With Shining Your Sink! by Marla Cilley—the FlyLady

Reviewed June 12, 2007.

Bantam Books, New York, 2002. 223 pages. Starred Review.

By giving FlyLady’s book a Starred Review, I’m not claiming this is great literature. However, I AM saying that this book—and the FlyLady system—have transformed my life. Her whole system is one of the most positive things I’ve ever done.

FlyLady offers her system—methods, routines, and encouragement—completely for free on the Internet. I am a subscriber and do love those e-mails, but I am a book person (obviously), and wanted to have the whole system described all in one place.

I’d heard about FlyLady before, but didn’t think I needed her. After all, I had a decent system in place for cleaning my house and I always put on lace-up shoes in the morning. How little did I realize how much she had to offer me.

Then I had surgery last February, and my house got hopelessly messy, and I felt hopelessly behind. I needed to work on getting ready to move, too. My husband was actually filing for divorce, and my spirits weren’t good. So I decided to give FlyLady a try.

I’m so glad I did!

FlyLady is hard to describe. She offers a mentoring service for getting organized, for cleaning your house and running your life—but she offers so much more.

Perhaps the acronym FLY is the most revealing part of the system. It stands for Finally Loving Yourself. And I find when I follow her methods, I really do feel more loved and more loving. And I feel better about myself. These are wonderful things for a woman whose husband left her.

What’s more, her way of thinking is transforming my life. One of the biggest areas of conflict in my marriage—and a major way I brought resentment into our relationship was my constant fussing about housework. I never seemed to be happy. I always seemed to think my husband or sons should be doing more, but then if they did something, I’d often criticize how it was done. I’d nag them and hound them. Was grumbling about housework or making the burden “fair” worth my marriage? Absolutely NOT!

Even living as a single mom, I don’t want to feel like housework is an ever-present burden, a noxious chore. I don’t want to have “Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome” (Living in CHAOS). I’m still astonished by how FlyLady has changed my whole attitude toward housework.

Please don’t think that I have everything together. I moved this summer, and we got our household goods in October, and I was taking graduate classes, so we still have towers of boxes in every room of our apartment. But FlyLady helps me not to get discouraged about the mess, but to get in there and take baby steps and deal with it all a little bit at a time.

I love her slogan for 2007—Progress, Not Perfection in 2007. She is the enemy of Perfectionism, which is a huge obstacle blocking us from loving ourselves. So often, I wouldn’t clean because I didn’t have time to do it “right.” She counters that with the slogan, “Housework done incorrectly still blesses your family.”

She has lovely names for tasks. Her weekly cleaning is called Home Blessing. She has you do seven different tasks for ten minutes each—you are not allowed to keep working after the timer beeps. I didn’t think it would do any good at all to vacuum or mop for only ten minutes, so I was amazed at the difference it made and how good it made me feel about my home. Pretty soon I found myself singing, “Make Me a Blessing,” while Blessing my Home—believe me, this was NOT my normal attitude toward cleaning!

Her system is not a burden. In fact, her reminder e-mails conclude with “You are not behind! You do not need to catch up!” She urges you to jump in where you are and begin with baby steps.

She helps you release clutter—to let go of the things you don’t love and let them bless someone else. Because you simply can’t organize clutter.

She does send out lots of e-mails—reminders about your routines, to go to bed at a decent time, and things like that. There are also testimonials of what other Flybabies have learned. I was getting overwhelmed by it all, because my perfectionism was insisting that I read all of them. When I gave myself the freedom to delete the ones I hadn’t gotten to, I began enjoying them greatly when I did have time to read them.

If you’re wondering if your baby steps will ever get you anywhere, it’s nice to read the testimonials of people whose houses truly are now “15 minutes from clean.” No more mad scrambles when company’s coming!

FlyLady radiates love and comfort to all of her Flybabies. Even though I’m not perfect, I know that FlyLady is so proud of me! And that feels so very good.

Here are some quotations from Sink Reflections that will help give the flavor of Flylady’s love and encouragement:

We are imperfect beings and praise God for our imperfection.

Some of us won’t even start a job unless we have enough time to do the job correctly. So we do nothing! Or we are trying to do too many things at once and nothing ever gets finished so we just give up and say, ‘What’s the use?’…This is where I can help you. Having learned to be organized, I can teach you techniques to get you started and keep you from giving up. That is what we do when we are overwhelmed with the system. I will not give you too much and you can work at your own pace. The best part is that when you are ready to take the next step, you will recognize your accomplishment and give yourself a much-needed pat on the back and proceed. We are not looking for perfection any longer; this is a process. One BabyStep at a time will set you on a flight path toward the home and life you have been yearning for.

Don’t expect changes in a few days. This is not a book on how to control your messy children or your spouse; this is all about you, your attitude toward your family and yourself.

Clutter is things that do not bring you joy, you do not love, or you don’t need. Things that you use, love, and enjoy are necessary and important to have. Things that you have in your home that you don’t need or don’t like will have the opposite effect on you: they will make you feel negative and dragged down.

Clutter also sends an subconscious message. Clutter tells the world that you are not worthy. We have all heard it. If you can’t take care of this, you can’t have anything else. We have been brainwashed by this clutter to believe that we do not deserve to have nice things, since we can’t keep our home looking presentable.

You may have picked up this book in your never-ending struggle to find the magic formula to fix your family and your home. But, sweetie, the problem with your home has nothing to do with idleness on your part. I hear what you hear over and over again—the reason your home is trashed is because of your laziness. Wrong! I know for a fact that I have never been lazy and I will wager the same about you. Your problem is that you don’t know what to do first and when you decide on a course of action, you are continually spinning your wheels and unable to finish anything. By the end of the day you are exhausted, the house is still trashed, and you have accomplished nothing. I just wish I could give you a great big hug.

The truth is that you are so busy taking care of everyone else’s needs that you forget that you have them, too. You are running on empty. There is nothing left for you.

You will get rid of this stress as you learn from the FlyLady system to work smarter and not make it so hard on yourself. I want you to learn HOW to be nice to yourself.

I get e-mails every day asking, ‘How do I get my family to help?’ My response to them is to set an example and quit being a martyr.

In the previous chapters you have learned about taking care of yourself. I believe that if you bless your family with taking care of yourself and your home you will see a difference in their attitude as well.

This is a major reason why this book is about so much more than simply removing clutter from your home and your life. If we do nothing else, I hope we impress upon you that if you don’t take care of yourself, you will have nothing left to nurture your family. You will be filling their cups with an empty pitcher. Everyone will be left unfulfilled. You have found this book because you were searching for something, anything, to help you get your home in order.

Your home did not get dirty in a day and it is not going to get clean overnight.

So many women have never felt peace. This is my main wish for you, to find the peace I have. I don’t want to hear that you have this disease or that, and that your clutter didn’t cause your illness. Stress is the main cause for illness in our country and the world. If we relieve the stress we will all be better off. We are not our diseases. We can learn to live with and find peace in any situation. It is a mind-set.

Your attitude has to change from ‘Why do I have to do this?!’ to ‘This is my home and I deserve to have a wonderful place to live. This blesses my home and my family and, most of all, me!’ Do you feel the difference that these two statements make in your heart? Giving up this martyred attitude and taking on the persona of doing good for yourself and your family relieves you of stress! If you understand this small reality and embrace it, I have done my job.

You also have another attitude that is going to be the death of you: ‘I have no time for myself!’ So after everyone has gone to bed you stay up later and later, until you are barely getting enough sleep to function the next day. Then, in the morning, you hit the snooze button four or five times and by the time you finally drag yourself out of bed, you are already running late. This makes for a stressed out, nasty attitude, yelling at your babies and running around like your head is cut off, not knowing where to turn or what to do next. The solution is so simple! GO TO BED AT A DECENT HOUR!

From the beginning of our little cyber-family, I have always insisted on our main rule: No Whining Allowed!! We have all caught ourselves in a whining mode.

It is only when we give ourselves the attention we need and are not searching for outside attention that our requests for help will be answered.

This is easy. Now that you can see and hear your effects on your family, you can stop yourself from doing this. Now, here is the fun part. You can blow them right out of the water by setting an example and doing what needs to be done with a cheerful attitude and out of love for your family. Even if you are not feeling very cheerful at the time, bite your lip and put a smile on your lovely face just for the fun of it. The results will reinforce this happy attitude and you will start to feel the inner change in yourself.

When you start FLYing, housework no longer is a chore, something to be dreaded. It becomes a way to bless your family, yourself, and your home. I want you to have the peace that I have. This came from my change in attitude toward everyday tasks.

Right now all I care about is how your attitude is affecting you. If you allow stress, anger, and self-pity to build up, you are not taking care of yourself. Please do this for you. When you accomplish this, you will be blessing yourself and your home.

This lack of self-love pushes everything away from us, our family and friends, and we even push God away. Still, he always loves us.

We too frequently act as a martyr. We may think that selfless acts bring us closer to God when, in fact, many times it is our egos that created these ‘selfless acts’! You shame others by saying: ‘Just look at what I do for you!’ You carry out these acts with anger: ‘No one else will do this; looks like it’s left up to me!’ And with pride: ‘No one can do it as well as I can!’ Oh, and let’s not forget greed: ‘I am going to do this because I will get points and everyone will notice what I do.’ This attitude steals from others the ability to contribute.

When you finally start to love yourself, your cup of love will be overflowing all the time. Love will be all around you. Love of self allows you to love others more fully.

The opposite of Love is not Hate; it is Fear. This is our perfectionism again. Fear we cannot do things right. Fear of what others will think of us. Fear that we are not good enough. When you love yourself, this fear goes away.

Finally Loving Yourself is the answer to being all that you can be in God’s eyes. When you can put yourself first, without guilt, you will be more able to love unconditionally. Your love will be in everything you do. You will be the reflection of the love God has for you.

I am one of you. I know your heart and I have felt your sadness at not living up to your unrealistic expectations. When I finally quit beating myself up for what I didn’t do and started doing what I could, acceptance of myself was the spark that kept me alive. If I teach you nothing else from this book, the website, and our e-mail messages. It is that Finally Loving Yourself is your ticket to FLY!

There is no ending except to say that I see this book as a beginning to a life of peace of joy.

My own ending to this review is to say, Thank you, thank you, thank you, FlyLady, for bringing peace and joy into my life at a time when I desperately needed it. I am by no means perfect, but I am progressing, and that brings me so much joy. Thank you!

Review of I’m Proud of You, by Tim Madigan

Monday, July 2nd, 2007
I’m Proud of You 

My Friendship with Fred Rogers

by Tim Madigan

Reviewed June 18, 2007.
Gotham Books, New York, 2006. 196 pages.
Starred Review.

What an amazing man Mr. Rogers was! This book tells how a newspaper interview led Tim Madigan to one of the deepest friendships of his life.

Mr. Rogers, famous to children for generations, is every bit as kind and loving a person as he appears on TV.  Tim Madigan says of him:

In my opinion, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood revealed only a fraction of his human greatness. Knowing him from television alone, it was tempting to see him as a man who might actually live in Neighborhood of Make-Believe. . . a person of epic goodness, no doubt, but also a man of innocence and naïveté, who, as a result, might be little acquainted with the grittier realities of life (though his program dealt unflinchingly with issues like divorce, death, and violence). . . . 

There was innocence about Fred in person, to be sure.  He could be quaint, such as when he referred to me as “my dear.” He was a vegetarian who would never eat “anything that had a mother.”  He wore a goofy-looking swimming cap and goggles for his daily morning swims.  He forever carried a camera, pulling it out with great delight to photograph people he had met for the first time.

But he was also a man fully of this world, deeply aware of and engaged in its difficulties, speaking often of death, disease, divorce, addiction, and cruelty and the agonies those things wrought on people he loved.  He worked very hard, a lifelong student of children and child development. . . .  An ordained Presbyterian minister, he devoured books by the great spiritual writers and was constantly preoccupied with spiritual questions himself.  He rose before six each morning to pray for dozens of people by name.  He was perhaps the most intelligent person I’ve ever known.

But in my mind, something else was at the heart of his greatness.  It was his unique capacity for relationship, what Esquire magazine writer Tom Junod once called “a fearlessness, an unashamed insistence on intimacy.”  That was true with almost every person he met, be it television’s Katie Couric or a New York City cabdriver; the Dalai Lama or the fellow handing out towels at the health club where Fred went to swim.  Fred wanted to know the truth of your life, the nature of your insides, and had room enough in his own spirit to embrace without judgment whatever that truth might be.

By the end of the book, the reader is also convinced.  Tim Madigan tells about some of the hardest years of his life, and how his friendship with Fred Rogers sustained him and his family through them.  His life was changed by being so freely and unconditionally loved, and reading this book has touched my life as well.

If you want to learn about a human example of unconditional love in action, I strongly recommend this book.