Good books will get through to readers

A good book will make a lasting connection

February 23, 2013

A friend of mine passed along a thought-provoking quotation penned by a wise sage: “In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but how many of them can get through to you.”

Although I am a proponent of making reading a lifelong habit, I’ve never thought it important to read something simply to read it. With the exception of assigned reading that we all have to do when in school or for business, reading for pleasure should be just that – a pleasurable experience.

Well-written books can and do get through to the reader and will touch them and expand them in ways we can’t measure. Books can and do make us laugh, provide a momentary pause from the day’s events to explore new ideas and places, and enrich and expand our minds and souls. Don’t focus on quantity. Focus on quality, because if the book is good, it will get through to the reader. After all, that is the point, isn’t it?

Books to borrow

The following book is available at many public libraries:

The Wall: Growing Up Behind the Iron Curtain, written and illustrated by Peter Sis (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 52 pages)

Read aloud: age 9 to 10 to adult

Read yourself: age 10 to 11 to adult

In 1948, Peter Sis was born in Czechoslovakia. That same year, the Soviets took control of his country and closed the borders. “I was born at the beginning of it all, on the Red side – the Communist side – of the Iron Curtain.”

In school and outside of his home, young artist Peter was told what to draw and what to think. At first he didn’t question what he was being told, but later “he found out there were things he wasn’t told. This was the time of brainwashing.” Throughout, there were many people who wanted to be free from Communism, and as Peter grew, he was one of them.

A deeply personal memoir of the author/artist’s life in Communist Czechoslovakia and his ultimate defection is brought forward through his rich, complex art and never-before-seen private photos and journal entries. A cautionary tale, “The Wall” provides deep reflection on freedom and subtly teaches what transpires when freedom is compromised.

Librarian’s choice

Library: Chartiers-Houston Community Library, 730 W. Grant St., Houston

Children’s programs coordinator: Jenise Sileo

Choices this week: “Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson; “Diary of a Fly” by Doreen Cronin; “The Titanic: An Interactive History Adventure” by Bob Temple

Books to buy

The following books are available at bookstores:

Alex the Parrot: No Ordinary Bird – A True Story by Stephanie Spinner and illustrated by Meilo So (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012, 42 pages, $17.99 hardcover)

Read aloud: age 8 and older

Read yourself: age 9 to 10 and older

There was a time when most people thought animals were not very intelligent, believing the larger the brain, the smarter the creature. In 1977, graduate student Irene Pepperberg wanted to prove this long-held belief wrong. And so, Irene purchased an African grey parrot, named him Alex, and began teaching him.

While an African grey parrot’s brain is about the size of a walnut, Irene felt certain this had nothing to do with intelligence. And it turned out she was right. Over many years of working together, Alex learned and communicated things that astonished both Irene and the world, including counting, adding, subtracting, color–shape–size identification and understanding and speaking hundreds of words. And throughout, Irene and Alex developed a loving friendship that lasted for 30 wonderful years.

A magnificent story perfectly written and illustrated, “Alex the Parrot” is thought-provoking in many, many ways.

My First Day: What Animals Do on Day One by Steve Jenkins and illustrated by Robin Page (Houghton Mifflin, 2013, 32 pages, $16.99 hardcover)

Read aloud: age 4 to 6

Read yourself: age 7 to 8

When some animals are born, they are immediately on their own with no parent to help them, such as kiwi birds and sea turtles. Others need a helpful parent to help them survive. This delightful, informative book by award-winning team Steve Jenkins and Robin Page introduces readers to 22 different animals and what they do on the day they are born.

Engaging, fast-paced text with lovely illustrations combine to make this a fascinating little book.

Kendal Rautzhan writes and lectures on children’s literature. She can be reached at her website,



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