Family Valued 10.19.05 

Pink lemonade and polar bears

Daniel Pinkwater has been writing books for 35 years: picture books, young adult novels, adult novels, essay collections, and dog training manuals. During that time, he's also become a familiar voice on NPR. If you randomly select a 9-year-old from within your household, he will probably be familiar with Pinkwater's work, if not his name. Try it. I did.

What do you think of when I say, "Pinkwater?"

I think of a big, bald man who writes silly books. He is a writer who writes short or long silly books.

Most people would think of pink lemonade.


What's your favorite book by Daniel Pinkwater?

The Snarkout Boys and the Avocado of Death. Stuff happened. It's about two kids who sneak out during the night and watch movies at the Snark Theatre and they go on this adventure which involves them, like, going after the world's most wanted criminal.

Have you read any other Pinkwater books?

Yes, lots of them, like the Werewolf Club, Young Larry, I was a Second Grade Werewolf and The Frankenbagel Monster. They're silly and they have nice plots. I would recommend them for kids who like reading and like silly stories.

What do you think of his obsession with polar bears?

I think it's kind of strange, but I like the books he writes about them.

Silly seems very important to you.

Yes, because, I don't know, I just have a sense of humor probably. I like having one 'cause I can understand all their jokes now.

--- Craig Brownlie

Thou shalt honor

I was instructing 6-year-olds in a Sunday school class with a curriculum of Bible stories. We were making clay tablets of the Ten Commandments with etched Hebrew letters. With each new letter we studied the gist of its matching commandment. The kids ranged from argumentative agitators to docile partisans. There was lots of good disagreement about coveting, stealing, and even adultery.

We arrived at "Thou shalt honor thy parents." We figured that "honor" meant to "value," "respect," "be polite," "listen," "follow directions." Then, unanimously, from the anarchist to the meek, every child in that class suddenly exclaimed that the commandment is backwards: "They have to honor us first!"

This pronouncement stunned me. First I was offended by the nerve of their uniform rejection of a precept that was literally written in stone. Then I was intimidated by their fresh perspective, allowing them to question such a tenet. When I was their age this never would have occurred to me. How was I cowed into such obedience?

Finally, listening to their dissent, I was inspired by the nascent wisdom of these children. "Of course," I thought. Why would kids care to learn to listen, be polite, follow directions, and value another person without feeling respected first? To honor our children does not mean to coddle, cater to, and indulge them. Those behaviors can be dishonorable. But to teach respect we must model it so our children feel its glow. Perhaps the commandment should read "Earn the honor of thy children."

--- Laurence I. Sugarman, MD

This week for families:

My Day in the Woods Sat, Oct 22. Helmer Nature Center, 154 Pinegrove Ave. 10 a.m.-12 p.m. Register: 336-3035


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