Thursday, March 22, 2018

101 Books, Number 4

Favorite Books Throughout My Life

4: Jim Bowie: Boy with a Hunting Knife, 1953, by Gertrude Hecker Winders (1897–1987)

I read this book so long ago—
I loved those tales—the Alamo
And all that Davy Crockett stuff.
I really could not get enough.

It was, of course, Walt Disney’s fault—
He opened up to me the vault
That held those Davy Crockett tales—
And Big Mike Fink—and so the scales

Of ignorance fell from me eyes.
And I read on and on (so wise!)
About Jim Bowie and his mates—
Who at the Alamo their fates

Encountered. Though they surely pled
For their brave lives. No use. They’re dead.
But they lived in on boys like me
Who ran around so happy, free,

And acted out the Alamo—
Though we would always win, you know?
With us, the Alamo withstood
Attacks from guys who just weren’t good.

Much later on I read much more
And found out that my brain, so poor,
Had failed to see Jim Bowie’s flaws.
(A slaver!). Broke some humane laws.

But still—excitement in my life!
And I would buy a Bowie knife,
Which still lies in my dresser drawer—
I’m not sure what to use it for!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

101 Books, Number 5

Favorite Books Throughout My Life

5: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, 1885, by Mark Twain (1835–1910)

I can’t believe I could forget
This wrenching novel that is set
In times we really can’t forget.

The novel stirs emotions strong—
In that, there’s really nothing wrong—
To read good books you must be strong.

It’s slavery at issue here—
And Twain’s position is so clear:
We cannot have such evil here.

His speaker is but just a boy
Whose language can, we know, annoy.
But he grows up, this orphan boy.

He comes to see Jim as a man—
That hadn’t been his boyhood plan,
To see a slave and see a man.

But near the end, the novel breaks—
The best of writers make mistakes—
And even finest china breaks.

The message, though, is firm and clear:
We all are humans living here;
We need to scrub all bias clear.

We need the death of slavery—
We need to make all people free.
If not? Then we’re in slavery.

We’re chained to ignorance and hate—
Those things must go (there’s no debate).
For life’s too short to stew in hate.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

101 Books, Number 6

 Favorite Books Throughout My Life

6: Fifteen, 1956, by Beverly Cleary (1916–)

This book was fairly new the year
I (sneaking) checked it out.
I sneaked because I feared my friends
Would find what I’m about.

It was my early high school years
When I first read Fifteen,
And, as I have revealed above,
I wished not to be seen

In company with such a book—
“For girls”—that was the rap—
Which subsequently I well would learn
Was just a load of crap.

The story of a teen romance—
It suffered a near-break.
But soon the whole thing all worked out—
It was a mere mistake

That nearly upset apple carts
All over their romance.
But Stan (the guy!) was true to her—
And thus completes the dance.

I read it once again, I’ll say,
Some decades after this.*
And there it was—as I recalled—
That first romantic kiss!

*for my memoir Turning Pages: A Memoir of Books and Libraries and Loss (Kindle Direct, 2012)

Monday, March 19, 2018

101 Books, Number 7

Favorite Books Throughout My Life

7: Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, 2011, by Susan Orlean (1955)

This dog I met in boyhood days—
That TV show that ran some years.*
I watched that show—the guns would blaze—
But Rinty soon assuaged all fears.

The show began when I was nine—
I watched it every week I could.
The plots, I learned, were asinine.
To me—back then?—far more than good!

I later wrote a book review**
Of this superb old Rinty tale.
And met the writer (what a queue!)***
And read her other works—cocktail!

It’s always nice to meet the one
Who’s written words that you admire.
Yes, that is just the sort of fun
To please old Daniel Osborn Dyer!

*The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin, 1954–59
** Oct.2, 2011--Cleveland Plain Dealer
***At the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she showed and talked about an old film about the dog. November 13, 2011 (and, yes, she signed!)

Sunday, March 18, 2018

101 Books, Number 8

Favorite Books Throughout My Life

8: Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, 1939, by Virginia Lee Burton (1909–68)

I loved this book—Mike Mulligan.
I read it often, just for fun.
I always felt a little thrill
There at the end when it was done.

An appetite is hard to fill
For readers who have climbed the hill
Of some book that they love. I know
The feeling that this is—the thrill.

The story went to yes from no
A way I didn’t think to go. 
The shovel’s life just took a turn—
(Perhaps I was a little slow?)

Yes, he became a furnace. Burn!
And that is what he did to earn
His living then. And good Old Mike
Would really help the shovel learn.

So there are books I’d really like—
From childhood on, when just a tyke,
I read my books and rode my trike
And knew the writer bowled a strike!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

101 Books, Number 9

Favorite Books Throughout My Life

9. In a Tangled Wood: An Alzheimer’s Journey, 1996, by Joyce Dyer

A book connects in many ways—
But some just lingers—some just stays.
And so it is with this true text
That shows a struggle—what comes next.

Joyce writes about her mother, who
Lost all her memories, through and through.
And by the end—in near defeat—
She knew no food—nor how to eat.

And Joyce records it lovingly—
A daughter blessed with eyes to see
The truth of even painful things—
She speaks in prose that weeps and sings.

For Joyce has just such gentle hands—
What piercing prose requires, demands.
For any work of human art
Requires a very human heart.

Friday, March 16, 2018

101 Books, Number 10

Favorite Books Throughout My Life

10: In Search of Lost Time, 1913–27, by Marcel Proust (1871–1922)

Now this is one I can’t forget—
I’ve very nearly reached the end
Of my account of this, the set
Of books on which I do depend.

I don’t know French, and so I had
To read translation—still a feat
(I praise myself? That’s kind of bad!)
That I would like—yes!—to repeat.

It wasn’t all that long ago*
That I decided I should read
These books that are so much aglow
With genius—this is guaranteed.

I read them very slowly, for
I didn’t want to miss a thing.
And so I sailed from comfort’s shore
With Proust, a literary king.

I’ve read no better books than these—
No, these sit on the highest rung
Where blows the very freshest breeze
That bears the music hearts have sung.

*I read them between February 2 and March 29, 2006