As I’ve mentioned before, we typically have several chapter book read-alouds going at once. I read each boy a special book at bedtime. It used to be that David would fall asleep while I was reading to John. That happens less and less often these days but they still enjoy having their “own book”. They are three years apart in age and have different interests so having different books ensures that I can pick something that appeals to each of them. It means we get through books more slowly but it’s really not a race so that’s ok. In the past week or so I’ve added in a special book for Ruth . We had experimented with this a little a few months ago but it changes the bedtime routine a bit and it became hard to keep up with three separate “special books”. It seemed like a good time to try again as we go into a new school year.
For Ruth’s special book I picked this new version of Hitty: Her First Hundred Years because it fit with the round the world preschool theme we will be embarking on soon. This is an “updated” version of the classic story by Rachel Field. I haven’t read the original but picked this version because it’s shorter and I thought more accessible for Ruth and because I thought the team of Rosemary Wells and Susan Jeffers sounded ideal. So far, it’s a hit. The chapters are short and Jeffers’ beautiful illustrations help make an easy transition from reading aloud shorter picture books to longer chapter books. The story is apparently changed from the original which doesn’t bother me because I don’t know the changes. After skimming the Amazon reviews, I see that those people who remember Hitty as a beloved childhood story seem to find this book a travesty. I can understand that, it’s how might feel if someone “updated” Laura or Anne.
I wouldn’t even know how to begin describing this wild romp of a book by Kathi Appelt that is David’s current special book. We aren’t finished with The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp yet so I can’t give it a full stamp of approval yet but the boys are both enjoying it and so am I. We read a lot of books and this is one where I have no real idea where it is going. Appelt weaves together multiple plotlines, all involving inhabitants of the Sugar Man Swamp. There are two raccoon brothers who live in a 1949 DeSoto where they wait for the intermittent Voice of Information that comes every time lightening strikes near the car. There is young Chap who is grieving the loss of his beloved grandfather and trying to figure out how to save his family’s cafe (Paradise Pies Cafe) from evil developers. There are evil developers. There is a giant rattlesnake named Gertrude. There is a mythical creature called the Sugar Man. There are rampaging feral hogs. There are sugar pies and a search for the elusive (and possibly mythical) ivory-billed woodpecker. So far, Appelt is adept at juggling all these different threads and I can only imagine that at some point it’s all going to come together. Regardless of our destination, it will have been a fun ride.
John’s current special book is The Penderwicks on Gardam Street, the second in the series about the Penderwick family. This one is quite different from David’s book; I’m pretty sure I know exactly where it is going. That said, we’re still enjoying these sweet slightly old-fashioned (in a good way) stories. John doesn’t mind that the characters are girls but this particular book has a plot that is a little more about romance than he likes. In the first Penderwicks book, he would roll his eyes or even plug his ears at the scenes about Rosalind’s crush on Cagney and this one has as it’s main plot the widowed father’s return to dating. Still, there is plenty to enjoy. Many nights I have to threaten to stop reading if the boys can’t control their shrieks of laughter that almost wake up their sister in the next room. I’m not sure if they will want to read the third book but even if they don’t, I plan on reading the series on my own to see what adventures lay in store for these girls.
At lunchtime we’ve been reading through books about another great literary family. We recently finished Rufus M., the third in the series about the Moffats of Cranbury, Connectict. We’re all enjoying these and it’s quite an achievement that Eleanor Estes manages to make these World War I era stories seem fresh and hardly dated even to modern kids. I would list this series along with Estes’ books about the Pye family as among the best read-alouds ever.
Finally, we’re working our way through Paddle-to-the-Sea by Holling C. Holling. After our trip to Niagara Falls this month, it seemed like an obvious choice. It’s somewhat surprising to me how much all three kids are captivated by this story of a little carved Indian figure’s journey through the Great Lakes. I thought they might see it as too obviously “school” but they’ve been begging for more each time I read it.
Be sure to stop by Read Aloud Thursday over at Hope is the Word for more great read-alouds. Consider sharing what you and your family are reading together!