Oliver is a little different. And that’s ok. He’s never really alone. He has his stuffed animal friends to share in his adventures. He’s clearly a boy who lives in a world of his own imagination and is quite happy that way. Then one day a stray tennis ball leads him to the next door neighbor’s house and he meets Olivia. She’s a little different too. We all liked this charming first book by Birgitta Sif. As a bonus, when we read it a second time we discovered that Olivia is there from the beginning, cleverly in the background of every illustration.
I have mixed feelings about Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon. First, the summary. Ralph is a boy (in maybe 1st grade) who struggles when it comes time to write stories in class. His teacher tells them that “stories are everywhere” and that “stories happen to those who tell them”. All the other kids (especially Daisy, the girl in the desk next to his) seem to have no trouble finding the stories all around them. Daisy even writes a book about Ralph. But Ralph can’t think of anything until one day when his classmates help him figure out how to turn a seemingly small incident into a great story. It didn’t surprise me to learn that the author is a creative writing and first grade teacher. There is definitely an element of inspirational you-can-do-it-too in this book. What bothered me is that I don’t necessarily agree with the methodology used here. I think for some kids who are natural writers it’s fantastic to encourage them to be creative and let them go crazy (that would be Daisy in this book). But I subscribe to the idea that for other kids where writing is much more difficult you have to give them more tools than just “stories are everywhere”. It struck me that Ralph was having a problem in the first place because of an unrealistic teacher.
BUT. And this is a big BUT. Both David and Ruth really liked the book. It surprised me since it’s really a situation that they have no way to relate to. But they thought it was funny, I think mostly they liked Ralph’s interactions with Daisy (which really do capture how a first grade girl is a whole different creature than a first grade boy) and the story he tells in the end. I think they also may have liked the cartoon like illustrations. Whatever it was, I was fine with putting aside my own issues and reading it to them multiple times over the week.
We never hire babysitters. Ever. We are blessed to live close enough to family that our kids get to stay with grandparents or an aunt or an uncle when we go out. Our kids typically cheer when we are leaving. And why not? Pop and Grandma do everything they want. Auntie brings bags of special book and activities with her. And Uncle is about 1000 times more fun than either of us. In fact, uncle is so much more fun that David likes to say that when he grows up he’s going to be an uncle. Willie has a pretty fun uncle also in this newish book by Amy Schwartz. Willie and Uncle Bill is three short stories about the adventures that the two title characters have when Uncle Bill comes to babysit. The adventures get wilder each time and border on the unbelievable but it’s all fun. It’s a sweet celebration of the special relationship between an uncle and a nephew.
Stop by Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word for more great books to share with your families.