We were an expert in brainwashing long before our English class watched The Manchurian Candidate in high school. We had nearly perfected our technique by age 3, having nightly whined, "Mommy, read me Inside, Outside, Upside Down" and "Daddy, read me Green Eggs and Ham." Eventually, we moved beyond those two masterpieces, incorporating classics such as Berenstain Bears and the Spooky Old House, Please Try to Remember the First of Octember and Sam and the Firefly. But the damage was already done. If you ask our mother which book was our favorite in childhood, she'll scream out Inside, Outside, Upside Down in a manner usually reserved for prisoners of war reciting their names, ranks and serial numbers in old war movies.
We've tried to break this cycle of abuse with our nieces and nephews, purchasing new books by contemporary writers, so no one will have a fit like A Clockwork Orange's Alex when he hears Beethoven. But, unfortunately, though the kids may enjoy these new books, we get karmic payback for our childhood choices. Until now. Now we know about Christopher Paul Curtis. We want to read his books; the burgeoning bookworms want to listen to them. And there's a bonus: education. Curtis' stories take us to new places, but not the kinds found in galaxies far, far away or inhabited by enchanted, clothed cats. Instead, there's The Watsons Go to Birmingham--1963, the story of a kooky but close family from Flint, Michigan, who head south on a trip and end up in the aftermath of the church bombing in Birmingham that killed four little girls. And then there's Bud, Not Buddy, in which an orphaned boy searches for the jazz musician father he's never met while learning how to cope with families and foster homes. Curtis, a winner of the Newbery Medal and the Coretta Scott King Honor, will bring these stories to life for kids 9 and older and their parents this weekend. And here's one story time everyone can appreciate.