In 1995, our community in N.E. Portland welcomed a Tutsi family who had escaped the Rwandan genocide. For six months, the mother, three-year-old boy, and one-week old daughter became part of our family of adults, dogs, and books. A favorite story was If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, by Laura Numeroff and illustrated by Felicia Bond. We all knew—even the baby—that if a pink-nosed mouse appeared in blue overalls, we’d offer him a cookie and invite him inside for a glass of milk. When he asked for a mirror to check his looks and a broom and mop for cleaning and a blanket and storybook for a nap and crayons for his artwork, we’d run to get them. He’d need to hang his picture on the refrigerator and the refrigerator would remind him how thirsty he was. We’d pour him a glass of milk. What is milk without a cookie? And, if we really liked the story, we could spend a very long and busy time inside that book.
In Copenhagen, I stand next to the bronze statue of Hans Christian Andersen whose fairy tales remain key childhood memories. My list of books to re-read in 2017 deal with memory.
- A View from the Bridge, Arthur Miller. I recall a deep empathy; cannot remember why.
- Dandelion Wine, Ray Bradbury. A simple memory of summer and beautiful language.
- David Copperfield, Charles Dickens. Will David stay a favorite Dickens’ character?
- Enemy Women, Paulette Jiles. I loved this novel of women POWs during the Civil War.
- If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, Laura Numeroff. Hope I still smile page after page.
- King Lear, Shakespeare. The manipulative old man, stripped clean, fascinates me.
- Kristin Lavrandatter, Sigrid Undset. For years I’ve said “Someday I’ll read this again.”
- The Drowned and the Saved, Primo Levi. The camp’s water pipe remains unforgettable.
- The Lemon Tree, Sandy Tolan. I missed too much of the Palestinian-Israeli history the first time around.
- Thrall, Natasha Tretheway. I’ll make sure I have the art piece next to each poem.