Stumped, I tell you. I was stumped.
Mom loved to read. We all did. That was plain as day. My growing up houses had overflowing bookshelves and stacks of reading material on kitchen counter tops, desks, and bed side tables. Mom always had a half-devoured book by her chair and a to-be-read shelf in the bedroom. We exchanged books through the mail in regular shipments between Florida and Vermont. “This one’s worth reading,” she’d say. “Have you read the latest Khaled Hosseini?”
But one she particularly loved? A treasured book? A favorite book?
I skrinched my brain hard to think of one and felt so deeply sad that I didn’t know. Isn’t that something you should know about your own mother?
I could make an educated guess. She had favorite authors: Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro, Carl Hiassen. As a kid she loved dog and horse books: The Black Stallion, Black Beauty, Lad a Dog.
Then I remembered Paddle-to-the-Sea, a book she had given Hyla years ago. I mean, she gave Hyla books all the time, but those were ones she found in her travels that she thought would appeal to Hyla’s interests. This one was one she’d also had as a child.
A loved book.
Paddle-to-the-Sea is the story of a little wooden canoe carved by a boy in the Canadian wilderness, just northwest of Lake Superior. He sets the canoe (and its carved paddler) onto a snow-covered hill near his home and waits for spring. When the melt begins, Paddle slides down the hill into a river that feeds the lake, and so begins his journey through the great lakes and out to the sea.
He follows the river, the waves, the currents, the storms, the waterfalls, the locks. We follow along.
Paddle doesn’t speak. He doesn’t have thoughts that we’re aware of. It’s always clear that he’s a something—not a someone—and yet I developed such a fondness for Paddle. I was rooting for him all the way. I worried for him when he was temporarily trapped in a beaver pond, or approaching the blade of a river-side saw mill.
It’s a short book. I read it in half-an-hour in a dwindling afternoon in July. I read it with a voice in my head. A voice something like my own, reading her child a story on some long gone July afternoon.
A story is a current. A story is a voice. A story is a wave, a journey, a seeking. A story is a memory and a thread. A story is the way someone’s love is joined to someone else.
I’ve got a cat on my shoulder as I type this. And my own girl on the porch swing. She’s deep in her own book on a perfect summer afternoon. What’s her favorite book?
I’ll go ask.
Our books for month 6:
- H ~ Cold Comfort Farm, by Stella Gibbons (note the new edition with cover illustrations by Roz Chast!)
- M ~ Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
- R ~ Paddle to the Sea, by Holling Clancy Holling (watch the 30-minute short film based on the book)
We’d love to know what you read this month. Please leave a comment telling us about it!
The category for the coming month is:
We’ll see you back here on August 11!
This post is part of our multi-year reading challenge. We’d love to have you join us for the whole challenge or any portion. Take a look at the checklist to see the current category (in green). We’ll announce the next category on the 9th of each month.