Peter S. Beagle and My Boy

****This entry brought to you by the fact that LJ is down. Your normal writing-only content will resume as soon as my tremors have eased, which is probably about the time LJ comes back.****

My son was extremely excited to bring me the PTA newsletter this morning. Since the PTA newsletter isn't usually a big deal in our household, I was curious as to the cause. It seems the PTA newsletter interviewed various students about their favorite authors, and my son...

NO. He did not say, "My favorite author is my mom!" And you know, it didn't occur to me until right now to be annoyed! HEY! Shouldn't I be his favorite author? Sure, he's far too young to read any of my books, but hey buster, those books help pay for our palatial estate (read: two-bedroom apartment) and the shoes on your feet and the glasses you broke!


Anyway, it seems my nine-year-old responded thusly to the PTA:

"My favorite author is Peter S. Beagle. He wrote THE LAST UNICORN. My mom met him at a convention. I am really into fantasy. He is very cool to me. I like his books."

All together now: AW.

My son struggles with reading. He was diagnosed as language-delayed at age four, and has generally tested well below his grade level in reading. The problem is, he loves it. He loves books and stories. He prefers picture books because they help him puzzle out what's happening in the book, but he'll struggle on through chapter books because they have better stories. I read to him, of course, and that he really loves because it's my voice and I can explain things to him he doesn't understand.

We've read everything from Judy Blume to a brief stab at the Harry Potter series (much too long and convoluted for an ADHD boy, but he adores the movies). THE INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD. An attempt at THE SECRET GARDEN (too girly for his taste). I made a deal with him once that when we struggled all the way through JOHNNY TREMAIN, we would rent the movie. Oops, still need to do that.

Currently we're reading IN GRANDMA'S ATTIC, a wonderful collection of stories I adored as a girl that gives real insight into what life was like on an 1880s farm.

We've never read THE LAST UNICORN.

Well, I have, several times. But he hasn't, and I haven't read it to him. And I know he hasn't read any of Mr. Beagle's other work. I imagine his fascination comes mostly from the movie, and from the fact that I know and respect Mr. Beagle and my son has heard me speak of him several times.

That, and it's really cool to have a signed DVD when you're nine years old.

I think when we finish IN GRANDMA'S ATTIC, it might be time to sit down with the book of THE LAST UNICORN. And then I think about THE PRINCESS BRIDE, and THE BLACK STALLION, and THE DOLLHOUSE MURDERS... wait, that last one might not be a good idea. Well, I liked it. But then I was writing tragic Smurf fanfic at age six, so what do I know?

His comment was chosen for the newsletter, for which he was inordinately proud. He breathlessly related the story of the weekly assembly, and how he was called up to the stage to read his comment to the whole school. I think he got coolness points for the part where his mom met a famous author.

(No coolness points for Mom actually BEING a decidedly-less-famous author. Humph.)

I keep to myself the way my heart breaks to see him struggle with reading. I know by his age I was tearing through Nancy Drew and every horse drama I could find, and in a year or so I'd discover GONE WITH THE WIND and the historical epic, and a year or two after that science fiction would grab me... But more than that, I remember how the written word inspired my imagination. Every word I read opened my mind a tiny bit more, every story expanded my world, and I wanted that excitement for my son.

I've often felt there are two worlds among us: those who read and those who do not. As Harlan Ellison told me, you either hear the music or you don't. How awful it must be for him to stand halfway between those worlds, hearing the music but not comprehending it?


  1. Awww...that's so tragic. I'm just glad that he has a wonderful Mommy like you who is still teaching him to love books. Even though he struggles to read, he still loves books and he will struggle to read instead of giving up. That's worth a fortune to a young person.


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