Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

07 May 2006

I come five hundred miles just to see a halo.

From a comment on my previous post, regarding Beverly Cleary's recent 90th birthday:

I introduced the Ramona books to my stepdaughters when Anna was six, and she got hooked. They were the first long chapter books that she read mostly by herself, and the first series that she really fell in love with. I still remember how upset she got when G. told her she had to stop reading and go to sleep--even though we knew how cranky she'd be in the morning if she didn't sleep enough, we still cheered privately afterwards.

I think the Cleary article really nails it. Though I wouldn't have been able to articulate it at the time, what I dug so much about those books when I first read them was how honest her characterizations were. There was nothing precious about Ramona or Beezus or, heck, even Ralph the talking mouse. Yeah, they were cute and funny, but they earned their cuteness legitimately, the way my daughter does. A kid can be manipulative and fearful and confused and awkward and angry and whiny and egotistical, and also be wonderful and charming and smart and beautiful and cute. Beverly Cleary got that, and she cared enough to get the details right.

Genevieve isn't quite ready for Ramona -- she's turning two in less than a month -- but she's an avid reader. (She's an even avider? more avid? watcher of videos, but I'm not as proud of that.) She's got almost as many books as she does stuffed animals, if you can believe it. Her newest obsession is Go, Dog. Go!, which I only kind of liked when I was little, but which I love now. Maybe because it's squarely in Genevieve's ZPD. She has recently begun to form sentences, sometimes complete ones of about three to five words, which happens to be the level at which Go, Dog. Go! is written. Simple one and two-syllable words, most of which she already knows, introduced gradually and building on each other as they go. Dog. Big dog, little dog. One little dog going in. Three big dogs going out.

I'm encouraging her to read by herself, scaffolding and supplementing as necessary. She doesn't need much encouragement. Of course, she augments the simple text with observations about the art, as well; she's particularly interested in the two dogs whose cars have crashed into each other, the angry red one wagging his finger at the flummoxed blue one. (No, dog! No, dog! No crash car!) And also the preclimactic moment when all the dogs have driven really fast to the big tree and are going up the ladder, a moment full of urgent questions that papa reads in a very excited voice. (Why? Why are the dogs going up the tree? What are they going to do next? What is their purpose, and what their destiny? Whither, o dogs?)

Which is why, earlier today as we were driving back from visiting Kevin and Caryn and Ellie and Oliverdog and baby Joanna in Mountain View, Genevieve was loudly repeating: "No crash car! Why? WHY?"


Anonymous Frederika Blankenship, still said...

My personal favorite children's books, lately, are (no italics on this computer, so I'll use caps) KING BIDGOOD'S IN THE BATHTUB AND HE WON'T GET OUT and GOODNIGHT, GORILLA. They might be a little early for Genevieve, since I have the mentality of a three year old, but perhpas so does she, being your spawn! King Bidgood is just like me. I hate getting out of the bathtub. But unlike me, he rules a kingdom. And the gorilla is, well... mysterious.

7:00 PM  

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