“THE READING PROMISE: My Father and the Books We Shared,” by Alice Ozma (Grand Central. 279 p. $24.99)
Jim Brozina, “an eccentric and excitable children’s librarian,” and his daughter, Alice Ozma, made a vow to read together daily. They kept that promise from the time Ozma was 9 years old until the day she went to college at 18. As Brozina writes in his foreword to “The Reading Promise”: “Once started, a reading streak can be a hard thing to stop.” Faithfully, even obsessively, they read together for at least 10 minutes every night for nine years. If Ozma spent a night at a friend’s house, her father called her up and read to her over the telephone.
They covered a lot of literary territory but returned often to such favorites as L. Frank Baum’s Oz books, the source of “Ozma” in the author’s pen name. They read writers from Lewis Carroll to Judy Blume to Shakespeare to Agatha Christie to J.K. Rowling. They did not keep an ongoing record of their choices, but a list of the books they can remember reading is included at the back of “The Reading Promise,” along with a form that readers can use to make a reading promise of their own.
It was the father who read and the daughter who listened. The ritual took them through most of Ozma’s childhood, including some difficult times. When she was 10 and her older sister Kathy was an exchange student in Germany, their mother left Brozina and the marriage. Father and daughter comforted each other after the death of Ozma’s grandfather; they shared their loneliness when Kathy left home for college; and they agreed, when Ozma was in junior high, not to have the standard parent-child conversation about sex. But year after year, night after night, whatever happened in the family or in the world, they read.
Ozma has written a thoroughly entertaining book with skill, intelligence and a delightful sense of humor. The book is about reading, so it will please librarians and other book lovers, but its greatest strength lies in the author’s affection for the father who kept his promise. He emerges from the story, with some poignancy, as a man whose idiosyncrasies are more than matched by his remarkable gift for parenthood. Brozina writes: “I have discovered very little in life that I am adept at doing. I cannot fix your car, repair your roof, or even drive a nail straight. However, I have given everything I have to being a father, and I happily stand back to see the results.” He should be very happy, indeed.
Lindbergh has written many books, including “Forward From Here: Leaving Middle Age and Other Unexpected Adventures.”
THE READING PROMISE
My Father and the Books We Shared
By Alice Ozma
Grand Central. 279 p. $24.99