Saturday, November 07, 2015

Happy Birthday, Mr. Collard!

Collard III. Sneed B  Snakes, Alligators, and Broken Hearts: Journeys of a Biologist's Son 
November 1st 2015 by Bucking Horse Books
Copy provided by publisher

When it comes to biographies and memoirs, I always err on the side of people whose careers (or lives) are pretty much completed, since otherwise the books tend to become dated quickly (1986 biography of Michael Jackson, anyone?). However, since this is a memoir only of Mr. Collard's childhood, which occurred, as did my own, back in a distant time when children were allowed to roam free in half finished suburban neighborhoods without sunscreen, cell phones, or water bottles, I found myself enjoying it tremendously. To the average 12-year-old, his experiences will seem almost as impossible and remote as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books.

But any memoir, without a clear focus, is less intriguing. Mr. Collard, a notable author of children's science books as well as several novels which clearly took inspiration from his own life, manages this brilliantly by framing his own biography within the context of his father's experiences as a marine biologist and less than optimal parent. This is summed up in the subtitle: Journey of a Biologist's Son.

Admittedly, I was intrigued by the similarities in our upbringing (Graduate housing, check. Bonanza lunchboxes with bologna that could made into worms, check. Cross country car trips, check!), but also by the dissimilarities. My parents were in elementary education, not college, so the descriptions of the summers at outdoor biology labs was fascinating. Also alien to my experience was the difficulty of being from a family where divorce and remarriage occurred, and where a parent had problems with alcohol. These issues are addressed in a way that will help students who may have similar experiences.

I've been reading a fair amount of memoirs recently for the Cybils' Young Adult Nonfiction category, and I have found that there are many of them that I don't like. They are either too didactic, too boring, or don't teach me anything. This was a nice combination of scientific information, historical context, dealing with life issues, and amusing anecdotes.

Just for you, Mr. Collard. Maple sugar frogs and turtles. Happy birthday!

Maple Sugar Candy Turtles and Frogs
http://dev.piecesofvermont.com/pure-maple-candy.html

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