Thursday, July 26, 2007

The Children's Hour

Hi Kelly,
I'd be happy to expound on the books we've read to C. There's nothing I like better than weighing in with my opinion. A lot of these we read simply because we had them in the house - they were mine when I was a kid.
The first chapter book I read to C was Winnie-the-Pooh, followed by House at Pooh Corner. I had not read either of these before and we borrowed them from the library but then ended up buying our own copies. Books for children fall into two categories in much the same way as movies for children do. Movie reviews always note whether or not the child's respected adult will find something to like in the show; because even though it's not geared towards us they know that we'll be there. The same goes for read-aloud children's books. They are written for kids, but it's a bonus if the adult involved enjoys reading them as well. If we enjoy the books we might even ham it up the dialogue a bit instead of rushing through, skipping descriptive paragraphs. The Pooh books, and I was surprised by this, were quite fun to read. We even read a bit of A.A. Milne's Now We Are Six which is a book of poetry.
Then we read Stuart Little, E.B. White's precursor to Charlotte's Web. I was thinking our next read would be The Trumpet of the Swan his last book for children and one I didn't read a child.
We've read Uncle Wiggily's Story Book, which C enjoyed thoroughly but both Ken and I found annoying. Uncle Wiggily, though his name implies that he could be a porn star, is actually a do-gooder rabbit who lives in a hollow stump bungalow with his muskrat nurse, Jane Fuzzy Wuzzy, and thrills to go on adventures which usually involve helping some child in distress. Howard Garis, who wrote Uncle Wiggily and lived in Amherst, MA, interestingly enough, also wrote some of the Bobbsey Twins books under a pseudonym. Uncle Wiggily was not just my book as a child, it was my mothers, and in Ungle Wiggily's defense I loved the books as a kid.
Along the same lines as Uncle Wiggily (those lines being more animal stories), Ken is now reading Mother West Wind's Children by Thornton Burgess. I don't think Ken would recommend it, his initial reaction was more like "how the heck did I get stuck reading this?" but it's got an interesting local connection in that Thornton Burgess was from Sandwich.
Books that Ken enjoyed reading C include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Pinocchio, and James and the Giant Peach. There's a sequel to Charlie, it's called Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, but it's not as enjoyable as the original and seemed to be over C's head.
I read C The Wind in the Willows, yet another animal adventure book. It's considered a classic so I'm glad we read it, but there were some parts that dragged, all the parts that weren't Mr. Toad, as far as I was concerned. And talk about a book with a tough vocabulary - make sure you have a dictionary handy if you decide to tackle it.
We've read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland which I wouldn't recommend unless you enjoy explaining inexplainable things such as why Alice keeps getting bigger and smaller, why the Duchess's baby turns out to be a pig, and why the Queen of Hearts keeps yelling "off with his head."
We tried The Story of Dr. Dolittle but C lost interest and we had to return it to the library. Later we listened to it as a book on tape.
Up next, in addition to Trumpet of the Swan, I'm thinking of getting him Beverly Cleary's The Mouse and the Motorcycle, which I had to read for a Children's Literature class. I was also thinking of reading him some of the Pippi Longstocking books, which I loved as a kid. I'm also looking forward to adventure books like Swiss Family Robinson, and Treasure Island. I haven't read either but I suspect I might have to wait until C's a bit older though I'm always amazed at what he understands: more than I give him credit, that's for sure.
Jim Trelease has a book called The Read Aloud Handbook, that has lots of book suggestions, more current stuff than what we're mostly been reading. Sorry to go on and on about this, I guess to sum it up, C has liked stuff that I would have thought was too old for him so if there's something you were thinking of trying on your son, I'd say go ahead and give it a try. Sorry to have ruined the end of Old Yeller for you, I remember my mother reading that as a short story in a book of American Short Stories. The other books I mentioned were all ones I read myself when I was older. Turns out, I was a real geek as a kid.

poem: The Children's Hour • poet: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Kelly B - Medford said...

Joanne - thanks for all your recommendations. we actually have some of those in our shelfs (my husbands books of course - he is our geek). And we got the long version of pooh from the hospital when my son was born. I'll bring it on vacation with us next week.
Thanks again.

Joanne said...

Hi Kelly,
Good luck with it. I think you'll enjoy Pooh. We're on vacation next week as well - off to Maine. Hopefully it will be cooler. I hope you have a good trip.