Jane is reading some of the books on the House of Education’s Year 7 list this fall. House of Education, in case you don’t know, is the upper-grades companion to Ambleside Online. I’ve been drawing heavily from Ambleside’s booklists since Jane was five years old. Beanie, six and a half, is making the acquaintance of some of Jane’s old friends this year: The Blue Fairy Book (my childhood copy, actually, fearfully dogeared and dearly loved), Just So Stories, Nesbit’s Beautiful Stories from Shakespeare for Children. Writing these titles makes me almost giddy: I love this literature; I love living these books with my girls.
One of the HOE books Jane is reading—and I too, for it was new to me, and I’m doing my best to pace her these days—is H. E. Marshall’s English Literature for Boys and Girls. The stodgy title belies the fun inside this book. Marshall is the author of Our Island Story, a fat and lively rendering of the history of England, through which my girls and I have been slowly making our way in fits and starts, for oh, at least two years now. I enjoy Marshall’s narrative style: the colorful character sketches, the dramatic flair, the occasional intrusions of a twinkle-in-the-eye authorial voice. I’m encountering that same amiable voice in the English lit book, which makes my ‘homework’ a most enjoyable pastime.
Of course, by opening the book with several chapters about Irish and Scottish legends, Marshall had me at hello. Jane writes out most of her narrations these days, but I asked her to tell me the story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley (chapter two of Marshall’s book) for the fun of seeing how well she could spin a yarn. She did a bang-up job, with all the little embellishments that rope a listener in. I don’t know which one of us enjoyed it more: there’s a great satisfaction in telling a tale well, and an immense delight in being treated to a tale well told. We’ll have to do this more often. I needn’t be the only storyteller around here.
Both the Marshall books I mentioned (and a good many others) are available for free downloading (chapter by chapter) at The Baldwin Project, a site about which I have raved before. Some of them can be ordered in inexpensive hard-copy editions as well.