Restocking our bookshelves

Some books we own get one pass through, some (maybe too many) sit on the shelves unopened. A much smaller group gets re-read. A few are beloved, read again and again. And a very small group is read to shreds, needing replacement.

I’ve just ordered a complete (I think) replacement set of Calvin and Hobbes collections to replace our first set, now nearly unreadable—and a big thanks to AbeBooks.com for making that affordable! It occurred to me to search the blog archives to see what if anything I had written about the comic strip, and I found this, written in 2008:

I was always a big fan of Calvin and Hobbes, owning a number of the collections. The older kids have all gone through a phase (sometimes multiple times) when they will sit for hours reading through the strips. When I talk to them about Calvin’s behavior, they seem to be both amused and horrified, laughing at its outrageousness while still having a strong sense that it is outrageous. They do not admire Calvin in any way (or the parents, who are about as dysfunctional as their son).

The “older kids” are Chris, Maggie, and Matthew, now adults. But the younger four (Elizabeth, Jerry, Benjamin, and Peter) went through the same process, hence the need to finally replace the books. Elizabeth (16) may be close to ageing out, but Jerry (15) and Benjamin (14 next month) can still be found whiling away a slow afternoon with their nose in one or another.

And Peter’s (11) extreme devotion to them is what brought them to their current sorry state. Because of his Down’s Syndrome not too many books grab his attention, but these he will study at length, frequently belly-laughing, often working to sound out the dialog. His diligence should be rewarded!

In the beginning I had no idea that the kids would take so strongly to that comic strip, and their interest began at a time when I was much more prudish about what they were allowed to read. One day I found they had devoured them all without my knowing, and I had to ask myself: Now what? So we talked a bit about Calvin’s behavior, and I heard the amused/horrified part, and I realized that it was probably good for us to have this as a topic of discussion, namely that Dad found Calvin’s antics just as funny and just as horrifying.

A happy accident, and one that started me on a deep re-think of how I should go about raising teenagers. And now Calvin and Hobbes is as much a part of our family tradition as rewatching A Christmas Story and eating meals together and allowing the kids to read a particular Harry Potter book once they’ve reached Harry’s age in that book.

And just to emphasize that nothing is set in concrete, even our traditions, this year I made up fancy certificates for each of the four youngest, stocking stuffers that bestowed on them permission to read any Harry Potter book at a time and place of their choosing. They liked that.

One thought on “Restocking our bookshelves

  1. Fwiw (because I grew up in a household where I was allowed to read practically anything I could get my hands on), I do think people need (and enjoy) ridiculous examples (so to speak). If I had kids I would keep them away from very violent media — that was something my mother did try to do, in a limited way — but not necessarily prevent them from encountering terrible examples. A lot of theologians love these strips.

    (ps I am really glad you will be writing again. I enjoy your perspective a lot.)

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