Restrooms are nice

We need some artsy restrooms in downtown Minneapolis to match those proposed $50,000 water fountains. Even a porta potty with graffiti would do.

We desperately searched for blocks for a public restroom or family restaurant restroom near the Hennepin light-rail station. Our teen guest wasn't old enough or bold enough to enter Sneaky Pete's or Gay Nineties. The library had just closed.

We finally barged into a nonfamily restaurant and commandeered a restroom. Our guests said Minneapolis was an adventure they won't forget.


Making a city beautiful

On Tuesday, Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak will unveil the first of several artist-designed drinking fountains in Minneapolis. Numerous readers have criticized these water fountains as a waste of tax dollars.

In fact, the funds for these commissions are not some new budget item but simply the public art funding available every year, consolidated in one project the mayor felt was important. Because he wants this not to simply be a functional city, but a distinctive one. Because the arts are a large part, economically as well as aesthetically, of what distinguishes Minneapolis from, say, Indianapolis.

And to everyone who'd apparently rather spend their money on big-screen TVs and extended-cab trucks: Expect to have less of it if the Twin Cities were instead to remain an anonymous city unattractive to the creative class drawn to more progressive visions elsewhere.



boys aren't reading

In Hennepin, they do

In response to John Coy's July 15 commentary, "Girls have reading down, but boys are losing interest": Hennepin County Library began offering book clubs for boys several years ago in response to the same concerns.

Inspired by children's author Jon Scieszka's GUYSREAD.com website, in 2004 we renamed our "Guys Read." This summer, thanks to grant support from Best Buy's Children's Foundation, Highland Bank and other funders, the Library Foundation of Hennepin County is sponsoring 44 Guys Read book clubs for boys of various ages. More than 400 boys have registered for the clubs.

GUYSREAD.com offers solutions:

• Motivate boys to read by giving them materials they like to read -- such as outdoor adventures, sports stories, humor, fantasy and nonfiction -- not materials others think they should read.

• Advocate for boys' literacy.

• Have more men step up as reading role models, so boys see that reading is a masculine activity.

By the way, Hennepin County Library is offering lots of book clubs for girls this summer, too.




A must-read list

After reading the commentary "Girls have reading down, but boys are losing interest," I went to our library to scour the books that my son and I have read together recently. Here are a few of the titles:

• "Jim the Boy and The Blue Star" by Tony Earley. Early lifts you right into these stories with tender characters, vivid portrayals of rural southern landscapes and a script so accessible even my 10-year-old could read every third page. The first book is about Jim Glass as a boy and The Blue Star follows his life into young adulthood (some themes are more suitable for older teens).

• "Jackaroo" by Cynthia Voigt. Here's a swashbuckling story with a (I know) girl as the heroine. Hard times have befallen the kingdom to the point that folk have resorted to begging and banditry. Voigt creates a hunger for words, painting a medieval backdrop with characters, both rich and poor, faced with moral dilemmas. For everyone who's ever wanted to don the cape, read this tale of sibling affection and true heroism.

• Kate DiCamillo's "The Tiger Rising." A great weekend read for boys facing loss or bullying. Besides, who wouldn't want to see how Rob handles his job of feeding a caged tiger raw meat!

• Lloyd Alexander's "Chronicles of Prydain." If you've already read the Narnia books, try this series, set in the same genre.

• "There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom" by Louis Sachar. Nobody could be meaner than Bradley Chalkers. But what's really going on inside the head of this tough guy? You'll have to read the book to find out. Don't believe me? Call my mom!

• We thoroughly enjoyed pouring over J.M. Barrie's handsome edition of "Peter Pan" this year. Richly illustrated by Scott Gustafson, this timeless classic continues to enchant readers young and old. Go ahead, splurge and buy the hardcover edition.

• Last but not least: Scott O'Dell's "Island of the Blue Dolphins." My fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Parsons, introduced me to the love of reading. I've got a signed paperback of this book to prove it! Karana (a girl) is the main character, but the themes of survival and perseverance shine true for all readers.

There's still time this summer, Dad, to grab your son and a book and go to it!