Each night, during dinner Will would give Rob a recap of the latest chapter or two we’d read and then wonder about what was going to happen now to the latest spoiled-rotten kid who’d drunk is way into a chocolate river or been thrown down the garbage chute by squirrels trained to identify “a bad nut.”
A highlight of the story for me was the Oompa Loompa song about Mike Teavee and the evils of television, which Will found not quite so amusing since at one point in the song the Oompa Loompas suggest that we should all chuck the televisions out of our houses. (Will is quite happy to get to watch his half-hour a day while I’m getting Owen down for an afternoon nap.)
Will is also enjoying some of the Junie B. Jones books. I can’t help but correct some of her grammar for him while preserving all of her more inventive and funny kindergartenisms. Will finds her slightly obnoxious antics pretty entertaining too.
Still, having read through most of the E.B. White classics, some Laura Ingalls Wilder and the most age-appropriate Roald Dahl books, I wish I could find more perfect chapter books, with plenty of pictures, and writing that Will and I (or he and Rob) could truly love together. (Suggestions are welcome.)
We’re still reading picture books too and our two favorite library selections of the month are Chris Van Allsburg’s "Two Bad Ants," and Robert McCloskey’s “Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man.”
"Two Bad Ants" tells the story from two ants’ perspective of going into a strange world that happens to be a kitchen in search of some tasty crystals that happen to be sugar. Will loved imagining life as an ant and wanted to read it again and again.
“Burt Dow, Deep-Water Man” is about the biggest whopper of a big-fish story you’ll ever read and plenty entertaining for the adult reader too. (The ridiculous story line includes a protagonist who catches a whale’s tail, fixes it up with a bandaid and later takes temporary refuge in the whale’s belly while a bad storm blows through – all of which makes for a whale tale in top form.) McCloskey’s so good with language and narrative that the whole fantastical story hangs together quite nicely. It has plenty of illustrations but also a hefty amount of text (probably best suited for the 4 and up crowd).
Meanwhile Owen has discovered such an affection for reading that most of his screaming of late occurs when I can’t find time to sit down with him and read a book. We do it plenty over the course of a day but sometimes there’s dinner to make or lunches to pack for school and the kid is so desperate to be read to, that if I can’t talk Will into telling Owen about the book that his little brother is waving in the air, we just have to let him cry a bit. I’m still working on convincing Owen that I can read a book to him while he’s sitting with it on the kitchen floor and I’m working at the counter. But he’s wise to the fact that most captivating reading happens on mom or dad’s lap.
And in closing, here's an excerpt from the Oompa Loompa's tirade about television and its effect on kids:
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they're hypnotised by it,
Until they're absolutely drunk
With all the shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don't climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink–
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
IT ROTS THE SENSES IN THE HEAD!
IT KILLS IMAGINATION DEAD!
IT CLOGS AND CLUTTERS UP THE MIND!
IT MAKES A CHILD SO DULL AND BLIND
HE CAN NO LONGER UNDERSTAND
A FANTASY, A FAIRYLAND!
HIS BRAIN BECOMES AS SOFT AS CHEESE!
HIS POWERS OF THINKING RUST AND FREEZE!
HE CANNOT THINK–HE ONLY SEES!
'All right!' you'll cry. 'All right!' you'll say,'
But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!'
We'll answer this by asking you,
'What used the darling ones to do?
'How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?
'Have you forgotten? Don't you know?
We'll say it very loud and slow:
They'd READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more.
Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!