Times Past

Let’s make our country happier, healthier and more secure through the love of reading

San Luis Obispo County, California, Girl Scout cadet Tess Bolster White and friends started Everybody Reads – SLO“ (everybodyreads-slo.com) to collect popular children’s and teen books and book gift cards to help SLO Library’s teen section and Casa de Children’s Books, which helps underserved kids grow their own libraries.
San Luis Obispo County, California, Girl Scout cadet Tess Bolster White and friends started Everybody Reads – SLO“ (everybodyreads-slo.com) to collect popular children’s and teen books and book gift cards to help SLO Library’s teen section and Casa de Children’s Books, which helps underserved kids grow their own libraries.

My Vietnamese neurologist at Stanford is Dr. Scheherazade Le. Her father loved Rimsky-Korsakov’s symphonic suite, “Scheherazade,” about the Persian heroine of “One Thousand and One Nights” (Arabian Nights), who took on a vengeful sultan who married one woman after another, only to have them killed in the morning.

“After the marriage ceremony, Scheherazade was taken to the king’s bed chamber. Scheherazade brought a flower as a present for the king. When the king arrived, Scheherazade said to her new husband, ‘Oh, my husband, my king! I know what you will do with me tonight, and what will be done with me tomorrow morning. But, please, I have just one last request. I have a younger sister, and she is very beautiful. After I give you my flower, I want my sister to be brought here to your royal chamber, so that I can see her one last time. I will tell her a story.’”

Such is the power of story that the name Scheherazade rings around the world. Since the Arabian Nights was written down some thousand years ago, countless readers have not only enjoyed but, like the sultan, have also learned from her 1,001 stories.

Ever apprehensive about a dinner party at your house? Then, writes Amy Bloom (New York Times, March 29, 2018), you should display “George and Martha: The Complete Stories of Two Best Friends” by James Marshall. Put it “right where guests would see it even before they take off their coats.”

“Their exposure to George and Martha... two loving, inseparable, not-always-brilliant hippopotami” will “act as lemon juice on scurvy, derailing some of the more predictable and dispiriting dinner party conversations.”

It’s virtually impossible not to see ourselves in Martha and George.

Children’s books helped save our marriage. Thanks to a third-grade book party at our house, we’re blessed with a 14-year old granddaughter, Izzy Niño de Rivera, who is the joy of our lives.

Liz says she was often a fishwife during the years I was working on my Ph.D. dissertation.

“But I did one thing right! I plied Dan with the funniest and most transcendent kids’ books.

“Like the sultan, I was a very slow learner! I desperately needed books like George and Martha and Lobel’s Frog and Toad. There are so many great historical stories in which I can identify with “the other” like Sharon Lovejoy’s Running Out of Night about two girls on the Underground Railroad. They taught me about acceptance, forgiveness, the failure to be grateful, cruelty, being judgmental, and good intentions gone awry.”

Today, our nation may be more divided than at any time since the Civil War. There are serious threats to our democracy. So much fear of “the other.”

On the vine of life artist Eric Krever created on the walls of Mission San Luis Obispo, every flower is somewhat different. Each is necessary. We, like the flowers, have different gifts or talents.

But what if our lives — and yours — are poorer because others are unable to develop or use their talents? That haunts us every day!

Girl Scout cadets Katya Harris, Aggie Moody, Katie Geise and Tess Bolster White believe stories can change lives. They’ve launched “Everybody Reads — SLO“ (everybodyreads-slo.com) to collect popular children’s and teen books and book gift cards to help SLO library’s teen section and Casa de Children’s Books, which helps underserved kids grow their own libraries. Some will learn English or Spanish by reading books like “Who Was Ben Franklin?” and “Quien fue Ben Franklin?” together.

Let’s make our country happier, healthier and more secure with children’s books!

This column is by Liz and Dan Krieger. Liz is a retired children’s librarian, and Dan is Professor of History, Emeritus at Cal Poly State University, San Luis Obispo. He is past President of the California Mission Studies Association, now part of the California Missions Foundation. He can be reached at slohistory@gmail.com.
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