The flood of "summer reading assignment" comics will surface in September, in the guise of "School is about to start and you haven't touched your ..." but, meanwhile, Frazz -- ahead of the pack again -- presents a nice one as a kickoff to vacation season, with a tip of the hat to the ol' Briar Patch school of pedagogy.
We never had summer assignments when I was a kid, but then I'd go to summer camp and the other guys would. Of course, like Caulfield, I read all the time anyway and summer was mostly a chance to do it without so many interruptions.
I remember reading "Tale of Two Cities" and "The Once and Future King" the summer I was 14, and I know I read "Kon Tiki" in the summer sometime, but it all kinds of blends together.
When I first got to college, I was intimidated by the way my freshman year lit professor could mention a "great book" -- Kafka or Dostoevsky or something -- and my classmates, thanks in part to summer reading lists, would have read it.
But I found that it was like arriving at kindergarten already knowing how to read, and was an advantage for only a very short time. The professors were not into assigning things we'd read in high school, and when they did, the Shakespeare and Mark Twain and such, you really needed to read it again with their angles in mind.
And then there was "Gullivers Travels," which I took a shot at back in sixth grade, because it's always touted as a kids book. I think I got about halfway through it, and I liked the part where Gulliver got in trouble for putting out the fire in the Queen's palace by pissing on it, but for the most part, I couldn't make heads or tails of the book, which isn't surprising.
We didn't read it in college until senior year. Despite the little men tying him to the ground, it's not a kids' book or even close to being one.
Which leads us to your first summer reading assignment. I hate "summer reading lists" that are not simply cut-and-paste same-old-same-old, but, worse yet, cut-and-paste same-old-some-old lists of books that the assignor has clearly never read.
And I've said so, and I'm keeping today's entry short so you can go read that instead.
And I stand by everything I said then.
I also stand by everything I wish I'd said but which -- as I noted there -- was said better by Kate Messner.
Kate and I first met at the very end of my reporting career, when she was a reporter for the local TV station and she made an impression by being rather good at what we both did, which we ink-stained wretches don't always acknowledge of those who have blow-dryers or, for that matter, hair.
Then I went into educational services and she went back to school for a masters and we ran into each other again when she emerged as a middle school English teacher and invited me to her classroom. And it was no problem acknowledging that she was rather good at that. Everybody knew it, especially her students.
And then she started writing for kids, which we both did, and in that arena she not only passed me but lapped me with regional publication turning into national publication turning into the "quitting her day job" level of publication.
And never mind whether I think she's rather good at it or not. One of the kids I edit -- for a publication 2000 miles to the west of here and who has never laid eyes on the woman -- wrote a review of a book by someone else entirely, of whose work she casually observed, "if you like Kate Messner, you're going to like this."
That's when you've arrived.
And anybody with any interest in what kids ought to read in the summer should check out what Kate had to say on the topic.
(Meanwhile, there is never an excuse so flimsy that it can't justify re-running this Sheldon, which is also reprinted in his brilliant collection "Literature: Unsuccessfully Competing With TV Since 1953":)