Whew! We moved Jane back up to college over the weekend and then, back here at home, got to spend an extra day visiting with my parents, who had come to stay with the rest of the gang while we were away. And then it was hustle-like-crazy to catch up from being gone. Which is to say, business as usual.
It’s too late in the day for a nice coherent post, but I wanted to toss down some stories I’ll otherwise forget. Huckisms, mostly…he’s been on a roll. Tonight he wanted me to take dictation for his Christmas list—no moss growing on this kid. I dutifully wrote down his three longed-for items and he leaned over the page, frowning anxiously at my cursive. “What if Santa doesn’t know this fancy writing?”
This morning I read aloud from Child’s History of the World—our tried-and-true first history book for the younger set. Today’s chapter was about Sparta and Athens (mainly Sparta, with a thorough description of what a young Spartan boy’s life might have been like). Huck listened intently to the plight of Spartan seven-year-olds—an age only months around the corner from him—and had lots of interjections to make along the way.
After the chapter, I asked him to narrate in the casual way I generally begin with around age six or seven. Not casual enough. He instantly froze up. My kids have been about half and half with narration: three of them taking to it like ducks to water, and three feeling shy and put on the spot. Huck is one of the latter. He actually ran out of the room and had to be coaxed back by a big sister. I cuddled him into my lap and told him not to worry, it wasn’t a test, I was just curious to know if anything in the story jumped out at him.
Huck, scowling: No.
Me: Do you wish you were a Spartan boy?
Huck, galvanized: No! Because they had to leave their moms when they turned seven, and—
—and he was off, chattering away for a good five or six minutes about all the details in the chapter. This is the way it normally works with my reluctant narrators, and I smiled secretly into the top of his sweaty little head.
Suddenly, mid-sentence, he broke off and reared back to look at me, laughing. “Hey! You tricked me! I just told you all about it!”
We all melted with giggles. He was so honestly amused. All the rest of the day I was cracking up over the shocked, almost admiring tone of his “HEY!”
The other thing that happened this week is that Rilla invented a board game. It’s called “Elemental Escape” and involves players representing Fire, Water, and Electricity (twist!) racing to the finish on a track filled with monsters. She drew a game board and mounted it on cardboard, and the game pieces are all Legos. Pretty fantastic.
September 16, 2015 @ 4:37 pm | Filed under: Books
I’m taking Jane back up the coast to college this weekend, so I probably won’t get my Sunday book recap posted. So here’s a (less comprehensive) midweek update instead. This has been a week for finishing, it seems! Charlotte’s Web, Dancing Shoes, and Vanessa and Her Sister.
Huck was furious with E.B. White over Charlotte’s death. FURIOUS. “Why did he have to write it that way?” he stormed. “He could have made it go different.”
In other words, to quote Annie Wilkes from Misery: Cockadoodie.
By the next evening, his ire had subsided a bit. I read the final chapter over dinner (I’ve been feeding Huck and Rilla before the rest of the family, netting a little extra read-aloud time). Listening intently while poking shredded carrots through his bread-and-salami—don’t ask me, I’m just the narrator—he interrupted the penultimate paragraph to say, in a dreamy, Fern-like tone, “But this book should never end. It should go on forever.”
I know that feeling, my boy. Not about this book specifically, I have to admit—knowing what was coming, and knowing that this would likely be the last time I read Charlotte’s Web aloud to my own children, I had a lump in my throat through the final few chapters and it was something of a relief, albeit a bittersweet one, to make it through the Last Day and leave the fairgrounds behind. Goodbye, Charlotte, you good writer and true friend. Goodbye, Charlotte’s daughters.
Goodbye, very odd open-faced sandwich.
The next day, yesterday, presented me with a grave decision. What, pray tell, is the right book to choose after the epochal experience that is Charlotte’s Web? I pondered many options—the Rilla-shelf is, of course, full of possibilities. But this book has big shoes to fill. And a Huck-and-Rilla book is not the same thing as a Rilla-book. I pulled a dozen contenders off the shelf, considering.
At last I made a choice, and judging from the rapt reactions to the prologue and first chapter, it was a good call.
(current cover / proper cover)
The Search for Delicious by Natalie Babbitt.
Unlike many (most?) of the books on the Rilla-shelf, this isn’t one I’ve reread a dozen times. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve revisited it since age eleven or so. But I’ve never forgotten it, the impact it had on me—Babbitt does that to one, of course. You never get over Tuck Everlasting. And I’ve never stopped thinking about conflicting perspectives and the strife that can result when people dig in too deeply to an opinion and don’t try to see others’ point of view. A thousand times in my life, I’ve taken a drink of cold water on a hot, thirsty day and flashed back to the cover of this book, or to an illustration near the end. It defined “delicious” for me.
(Hint: it does not involve a sandwich stuck full of carrot bits. But Huck may have a different perspective on that.)
Time for another weekly roundup! Here are the books we read alone and together this week.
Zita the Spacegirl, Legends of Zita the Spacegirl, The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. Read by: Huck, Rilla, and Beanie, all at different times this week.
These graphic novels have wide appeal, as you can see by the range of ages enjoying them at my house—kids ages six through fourteen, this week! One morning this week, I left Huck home with Jane while I took the other kids on an outing. Now, normally Huck would jump at the chance for a whole morning of undivided attention from his big sister, but on this day I returned home to find him sitting on the couch, engrossed in the third Zita book. “The entire time you were gone,” said Jane, answering my inquisitive glance. “He read the whole series, one after the other.” When a six-year-old boy gives up the chance to trounce his grown sister in Mario Kart, you know you’ve got a winning series.
On to picture books. I never manage to track them ALL, because the boys read them in bed at night. You should see the stack on their floor right now. Actually, no you shouldn’t, it’s a mess.
Chester’s Way by Kevin Henkes. Read to: Huck.
The Big Green Pocketbook by Candice Ransom, illustrated by Felicia Bond. Read to: Huck.
Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Harry Bliss. Read to: Huck.
I wonder how many times I’ve read The Big Green Pocketbook out loud. It never gets old. And I still always choke up at the end!
Super-Cute Chibis to Draw and Paint: Giant-sized Fun from a Micro-sized World by Joanna Zhou. Enjoyed by: Rilla, Beanie, and me.
Beanie and Rilla have been using this book for inspiration and instruction for at least a couple of years now. Seems like it is ALWAYS out on a desk or table beside a pad of paper. Has to be their favorite how-to-draw resource. I’ve been trying to add more pictures to my bullet journal and I decided (inspired by SailorMimzy, Ms. Cendolife, and Chotskibelle on Instagram) to try to design chibi figures for our whole family. Naturally I turned to my resident experts for advice. I’m still a rookie compared to my girls, but I’m getting there.
Bake Sale by Sara Varon. Read by: Rilla.
Another beloved graphic novel. Sara Varon illustrated my friend Cecil Castellucci’s wonderful Odd Duck, a great favorite around here. Bake Sale is a quirky story about friendship. Yes, that’s an eggplant and a cupcake making…cupcakes. Rilla almost missed our Saturday night art date because she didn’t want to put this one down. (I’m seeing an absorbing-graphic-novel trend this week.)
A Child’s History of the World by Virgil M. Hillyer. Read to: Huck and Rilla.
I guess I didn’t mention this one last week or the week before, but I should have! This is Rilla’s history spine. We read a couple of chapters a week, with Huck listening in—one of our narration texts. This week was the Trojan War.
Curious George’s First Day of School by Margret & H.A. Rey. Read by: Wonderboy.
Sudden Curious George attachment happening here. I expect there will be many more in our roundups, as soon as I get a chance to make a library run.
Betsy and the Great World by Maud Hart Lovelace. Read by: Beanie.
Oh, I just love this book so much. I asked Beanie to reread it as context for our early 20th-century studies. Betsy’s tour of Europe involves a romance in Venice, a long stay in Germany, and a hurried departure for home from England when the Great War begins. The final chapters involve one of my favorite moments in all of literature. I mean that without any hyperbole at all. It’s even better than the end of Pride and Prejudice.
Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Read by: Wonderboy (in progress).
This book makes the list twice this week! Rilla and I are still listening to the audiobook (below) during our Saturday-night art dates. I pulled out the hard copy to check how much we had left, and Wonderboy wanted to read it. He’s slowly making his way through. Fun fact about the edition pictured here: I’m pretty sure this was the first book I ever wrote cover copy for.
UPDATE: I am informed that Jane, age 20, saw this book lying on a table and reread it this week as well. 🙂
Storm Thief by Chris Wooding. Read by: me (in progress).
Rose asked me to read this—one of her favorite books. I’m only a chapter in so far, but it’s gripping. I’ll report back later.
Vanessa and Her Sister: A Novel by Priya Parmar. Read by: me (in progress).
My bedtime Kindle reading is this fictionalized tale of Virginia Woolf and her sister, as told by Vanessa. So far: fascinating and fraught. After I finished To the Lighthouse I was hungry for background on Woolf, and I found this in my queue of digital review copies. Perfect timing. More to come on this one too, I’m sure.
Books Continued from Last Week:
Beanie’s lit class (which I teach) finished a two-week discussion of An Old-Fashioned Girl. Alcott is so funny—this is such a heavy-handed, moralistic book, quite preachy in places, with absolutely zero subtlety in its contrast of simple, wholesome, “old-fashioned” ways of bringing up children (especially girls) and the unhealthy “modern” practices she observed in the middle- and upper-middle class East Coast society of her day. And yet…despite the many anvils she drops all over the place, I am drawn in, I get wrapped up in the characters’ ups and downs. My group of 14-year-old girls found much to discuss in the contrasting upbringings of Fanny and Polly, and in the vision Alcott paints of a “future woman”—”strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-bodied, strong-souled,” she says—envisioning us, the girls and women of generations to come.
Next up for this group: Sarah Orne Jewett.
We’re nearing the end of Charlotte’s Web—too soon, too soon! When we left off, the crickets were singing about the end of summer, and everyone’s preparing for the county fair. “Summer is over and gone,” sang the crickets. Good-bye, summer, good-bye, goodbye!”
As a member of Wisteria & Sunshine, Lesley Austin’s gentle online community for home-and-hearth inspiration, I’ve had the fun of watching behind the scenes as her beautiful new Wild Simplicity Daybook took shape. Today is a day to celebrate, because the Daybook has landed in her Etsy shop!
It’s a Midori-style cover made with the tender eco-friendly consciousness that suffuses all Lesley’s handmade wares, and she has created a selection of inserts to let you customize your Daybook for your own use. I’m particularly fond of Lesley’s monthly calendars (I’ve been using them in one form or another for almost a decade!), and her new weekly diary pages are the loveliest I’ve seen anywhere. She offers them in insert booklets spanning three months at a time, with the Autumn and Winter inserts currently available.
Besides the monthly and weekly calendar inserts, she is also offering blank inserts for notes or journaling and a “Days to Keep” booklet for recording birthdays, anniversaries, and other special dates.
This probably sounds like a sponsored post, but it isn’t! And Lesley didn’t ask me to write it. I am a longtime fan of her paper goods who has had the pleasure of becoming Lesley’s friend as well, and I’m so excited to see her latest venture take flight. Recently I was chatting with another friend about things we love, and I said, “I think my aesthetic is one part Waldorf kindergarten, one part library, and one part Small Meadow Press.” 🙂