Wednesday, March 28, 2007

more bookery type thoughts

My last post was about the first chapter book we read in its entirety to The Boy. The Boy is less than two months from being four years old, and if I remember correctly, it would have been about this age that Big Brother also became interested in chapter books.

I hate the term "chapter books" but I don't know a way to differentiate between the picture heavy books of the very young and the more text centered books that we're moving toward. So I'll hate the term and use it anyway.

This is an exciting time for me as I consider all the books we will soon be able to read. I don't want to suggest I'm tired of the picture books. We do have some clunkers that the boys have both loved and that I've had to read more than I could ever have wanted. But we also have some really awesome books with great stories and beautiful art.

All this is also not to suggest that we are making a break, that those picture books are somehow going to disappear into a void. Those books will find their way into the rotation still, but we'll get to add so many more books.

Tonight perhaps we start a new book. Part of me leans a little toward Little House as it's always a good time for a new person to fall in love with Laura and her family. Part of me is trying to remember when exactly we introduced Big Brother to a certain Bilbo Baggins of the Shire. He wasn't much older than The Boy is now, and he absolutely loved it.

I'd be curious to hear stories about this sort of thing from others. Name some books, tell us those gems you have or are looking forward to introducing to your kids. Did you read the first couple of Harry Potter books with that dear child only to have your child outgrow being read to then fight you for the new ones? Were there candy factories and big friendly giants? Did you read of kidnappings and escapes through the Scottish highlands?

oooohh, chapter book

Last night ended a sort of achievement for this bookish family. Though Momma began reading the book, I was the one to finish it. I actually read it first and recommended it to the household in general. Momma began reading it to The Boy, but after a few chapters/nights, he finally allowed me to read a bit on one of Momma's work nights. At this point Momma finished the book on her own since she was not going to keep up if she only read at night. I think she sat down to catch up on the chapters I had read and ended up finishing it. At some point in the reading Big Brother began to appear in his bed at the times we were reading to The Boy in his bed. At some point, Big Brother decided to just read the book during the daytime on his own.

I've mentioned reading A. A. Milne's Winnie the Pooh books to The Boy, and those are basically chapter books, but I don't count them as such for our purposes. We've never read them from beginning to end. The chapters each stand alone as a story, though there is mention of different situations between different stories providing for some amount of continuity. Additionally, when we've read from these books with the boys they or we tend to pick from a few favorite stories for the most part.

The books is The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. It's the story of Despereaux Tilling, a mouse small even by mouse standards. Due to an accidental situation, Despereaux falls in love with the princess and is banished to the dungeon to be eaten by the rats. It's a bit convoluted, but fairy tales are quite allowed to be thank you very much.

One major issue I had with this book was the addition, much too often, of references to the reader. I found it to be really cumbersome, cluttering up a wonderful story with constant asides directed to the reader as "reader." It was kind of like watching a good movie on tv. No matter how much you try to get lost in the tale, a commercial or ten keeps popping up to mar the experience.

Aside from that, I really loved the story. Every other part of it was well written, fun, a little dark, always just a little hopeful. A particular passage referring to the nemesis, Roscuro, describes his heart being broken and mended, and it's this passage that seems to have stuck with me.
". . . these things helped him to put his heart together again. But it was, alas, put together wrong."

The artwork in the book is simple and spare and is perfect for this book. The chapters are all really short with lots of great chapter endings, a boon to any book that involves a quest to save a princess. It is also a great book for a kid approaching that corner between a love for Dr. Seuss and an interest in stories.