The Simple Life
By Michele Meier Vosberg
Dad and Harry
My father is reading Harry Potter. For those who have somehow managed to miss the hoopla in the last year or so, Harry Potter is the young wizard hero in a series of children’s novels by British author J.K. Rowling. My father was visiting recently and asked to borrow the book. What’s surprising is not so much that my father is reading a children’s book. Many adults have taken to Harry Potter and look forward to the next installment as much as any child. In England they have even printed the book with two different covers, one to appeal to children and the other, a more sedate cover, for adults. The first three Harry Potter books spent over a year on the Amazon adult best seller lists. The fourth book in the series was a best seller at Amazon for months before it was even published. The Harry Potter books filled up so many spaces on the New York Times Top Ten Bestseller list that publishers and authors of adult books complained. A new list of children’s bestsellers was created so that Stephen King and Danielle Steele could resume their spots on the regular list.
So what’s surprising is not that my father is reading Harry Potter. He appears to be in good company there. What is surprising is that he is reading a novel.
As far back as I can remember, I cannot recall my father ever reading a novel. My father reads the newspaper every morning while he eats his Cheerios or Wheaties. He occasionally subscribed to a hunting or fishing magazine or borrowed one from one of my uncles. I once gave him an autographed copy of a book of collected essays from his favorite newspaper columnist, Steve Hopkins. He owns an atlas. That’s it.
My father never owned a library card or owned or read books. Books were not of interest or value to my father. My mother wasn’t big on books either. As far as I know, she’s never had a library card either. I can’t recall ever seeing her read a book. She reads magazines while she dries her hair, but that’s the extent of her literary adventures.
I’ve often wondered how I came to be such a reader. I read more than almost anyone I know, and I would read more if I had the time. I have a library in my house, it’s one of the biggest rooms. My shelves are full of books and I have lots of piles of books everywhere. Next to my family and friends, reading is probably more important to me than anything else.
I remember my mother taking me to preschool story hour. She would drop me off and return for me in an hour. I don’t remember checking out books then, though I remember owning some Little Golden Books. Was it then that I fell in love with stories?
I can’t remember when I got my first library card. You could get a library card as soon as you could write your name on the application, so I imagine I got my first card soon after I could write my name. It seems I’ve always had a library card and I can’t imagine not owning one. Library excursions were usually solo journeys for me. We lived close enough to walk and I was a regular patron. I loved it in the library and often carried arm loads of books home with me. In school we were permitted to check out only one or two books each week. There were periods of my childhood where I read one or two books each day. I’m not talking picture books here, these were novels, although series such as Nancy Drew were certainly a factor. Perhaps it was during those years when the habit and desire for reading was manifested. I read so much that at times my parents would reprimand me. Perhaps reading was the ultimate rebellion.
In any case, I am a reader born of those who are not. Until now. Recently an illness forced my father into early retirement. He began to care for my four-year-old nephew several days a week. Looking for things to do, he took Josh to the library. He got his first library card. My father, that is. Josh tells me that he will get his own when he can sign his name…they still have the same rules. Shortly thereafter, dad sent an e-mail asking me for a list of books that he could read with Josh. I was happy to oblige and sent him off a list of my favorite picture books. Each week Dad and Josh have gone to the library where they check out books from my original list and the new favorites that he and Josh have found on their own. They have become faithful library patrons.
When my father visited a few weeks ago we had a conversation discussing the merits of children’s authors Tomie de Paola and Laura Numeroff. I’m still stunned, never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be discussing children’s book authors with my dad. And now my dad is reading a novel. For over sixty years he has managed to get by quite happily without books in his life. Now he is interested. I hope that Harry Potter can meet the challenge. It would be a shame if the book bores him. I want him to find the entertainment, knowledge and sheer joy that I have found in books.
It’s not too late, I have high hopes. Maybe we, Harry Potter and I, can turn my father into a reader. It may take a bit of magic, but then Harry Potter is quite a wizard.