April 24, 2013

The Literary Review

One of the most super things about being a parent is reading bedtime stories. My dad used to read to me and my brother, and I would annoy them by stealing the book and reading ahead, then getting bored when he was reading the same bit I’d already read. I’m going to be prepared for this when it happens to me as a parent.

When Bernard was tiny, Pete used to read to him as he fed, and he was milkily oblivious to the story, which meant we read some fairly unsuitable stuff like The Hobbit and Tales of King Arthur. Once he was old enough to listen and understand, we set about reading more age-appropriate literature such as The Gruffalo, Green Eggs and Ham, and the beautifully illustrated Oliver James books. My personal favourite was always Where The Wild Things Are, but most of these books get a bit stale by the ninetieth time you read them.

I’m guilty of pushing Bernard to listen to stories that slightly challenge his reading level, not out of Pushy Motherishness, but because as his reading age increases, his stories get more interesting. While I have tolerated the various works of Roald Dahl, I am definitely looking forward to The Hobbit, Watership Down, Tom Sawyer, and Biggles. I also like to browse charity shops and secondhand bookstalls for books I remember loving, and this has introduced Bernard to some real old favourites including Professor Branestawm, Dr Dolittle, Milly Molly Mandy, and Mrs Pepperpot. The one point to note about secondhand children’s books is that some of the unrevised language can be a little choice. I’ll tell you about the coons in Dr Dolittle at some point.

The other thing I’m enjoying is reading books that I missed out on as a kid. You may be surprised to learn that I first read Charlotte’s Web last year, I never really got into The Secret Seven, and we’re currently enjoying Pippi Longstocking: first time for both of us. The older he gets, the more I enjoy discovering new stories, and rediscovering old ones.


17 thoughts on “The Literary Review

  1. Moomins!

    I used to love a lot of the Enid Blyton stuff, although I know it’s no longer very PC. Depending on availability, also look out for the Willard Price “[x] Adventure” books – again probably not very PC any more, but lots of info, and not bad stories.

    And I’d forgotten all about Professor Branestawm…

  2. Ooh they look exciting, if possibly a little scary. There are a lot of teeth on the covers. I’ve put one on the Small Boy’s wishlist. Judging by the story he was telling me this morning about people falling out of an aeroplane and being spiked on the Gruffalo’s claws, he’s getting into gore.

  3. I loved the Owl who was afraid of the dark.

    And I re-read Pippi Longstockings so so many times (but in German, just to be awkward). I got angry a few months ago because I couldn’t find one of the books in the series when I wanted to re-read them again.

  4. Oooh, all of EB White’s books are marvelous, in my memory. I loved The Trumpet of the Swan almost as much as I loved Charlotte’s Web. And as he gets older, also consider reading A Wrinkle in Time with him (I’m assuming that book isn’t as big in the UK as it was here, in our generation, based on my sample size of One Husband who hadn’t read it).

  5. Thank you, this is helping me build a wishlist for the upcoming 7th birthday.

  6. This is a subject dear to me. My mother started her career as a Children’s Librarian. At work, she dressed in costume for Storytime, and did all the voices. At homeI was a guinea pig. I suspect I heard more children’s stories than any other kid in the neighbourhood. She also enlisted others to read to me-I can remember a favourite uncle reading the original Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass. Winnie the Pooh ranked right up there. I adored Pippi. I liked her even more than Anne of Green Gables, which from a Canuck is treasonous talk.

    So. thinking boy, seven….
    Mr Popper’s Penguins–( although it convinced me for the longest time that penguins lived at the North Pole)

    Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs- language and imagination

    The True Story of the Three Little Pigs – never too early to learn about the power of political spin.

    The Trouble With Chickens – I love mysteries and dogs. This has both.

    I’ll stop now because I’ve just remembered that I still haven’t read A Wrinkle in Time or The Indian in the Cupboard.

  7. Oh thank you, I’ve added some of those to the list, and also bookmarked one for my little nephew!

    My dad usually read to us, but I can also remember my grandfather reading us Old Peter’s Russian Tales, when we were staying with them. We asked for that book every time.

  8. If Bernard’s into that kind of thing, don’t forget there’s also the proper Grimm Fairy Tales, which are entertainingly grim (sorry!) on occasion.

    I know you’re not a massive Roald Dahl fan, but the Revolting Rhymes book will probably start being appreciated more in Bernard’s age group. (I’ll always remember Red Riding Hood “whipping a pistol from her knickers”)

    Possibly also getting to be the right age for stuff like Narnia novels, Ursula K Le Guin’s Earthsea novels, and maybe even Susan Cooper’s “Dark is Rising” stories.

    Also Wolves of Willoughby Chase used to be one of my favourites (among many, many others including Robert Westall’s “The Machine Gunners”, and the Borrowers novels)

    Oh! Stig of the Dump too.

  9. I loved the Dark is Rising series, but am still cross about the last few pages.

  10. Oh yes to lots of that! We’ve been reading Grimm fairy stories (both sweetened and unsweetened) for a long time, they are old favourites.

    My uncle gave me a copy of the Dark Is Rising when I was about ten, but I didn’t read it because it had a scary picture on the cover. Yeah, I know. I read the whole series a couple of years ago, and loved it. Really looking forward to reading that with Bernard, and a good antidote to the heavily religious Narnia books, which we also have the set of. And the Earthsea novels, he’s definitely not old enough to appreciate those. He HAS to love them as much as me. HAS to. I’m also intrigued to try Artemis Fowl, and resigned to Harry Potter, but at not-quite-seven, we’re not starting any of that yet.

    We’ve read Stig of the Dump, though. Another nostalgia trip for me.

  11. In the summer of 2000, I was a nanny for two adorable little girls, and I read them half a chapter of Harry Potter every night before bed (books one through three). The five year old admittedly drifted in and out of the plotlines, but the seven year old was absolutely RAPT, and didn’t even mind rainy days (we were at the beach all summer) because it meant extra Harry Potter. So I don’t know that Bernard is necessarily too young to comprehend them! But if you’re not crazy about them (I was/am) then he probably wouldn’t be either…?

    Also my first graders, in the brief time I had a class of first graders, went absolutely bananas for the Robert Munsch books, particularly The Paper Bag Princess (about a Princess who saves her Prince from a dragon, only to realize she doesn’t really need a Prince after all thank you very much). It’s a picture book, not a chapter book, so Bernard can probably read it to himself or with your help, but it’s SO fun.

  12. It’s more that once we start Harry Potter he might want to read the whole series, and I think the later books are too old for him.
    We have definitely read The Paper Bag Princess, I love books like that. I’d also recommend Princess Smartypants, along the same lines.

  13. The Potter ones are OK, but if he’s going to be on the other stuff by then, it’ll be a tad twee, I suspect. They’re not bad reads though.

    Been trying to think of other ideas, and will almost certainly add more when I do.

    I suspect that the Borribles (Mike de Larrabeiti) is a bit old still, but it’s worth looking out for.

  14. Oh yes, that’s definitely true re: the HP books. I know the girls’ mom decided at one point that the girls were just going to have to wait a few years to read book 4 and onwards.

  15. Ooooh….just thought about some Terry Pratchet.. Truckers, diggers, wings and the carpet people!

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