Good Queen Bess

IMG_3262For our most recent Mother-Daughter book club, our eldest member on the daughter side -a bona fide third-grader – chose nonfiction. Thankfully, rather than Who is Taylor Swift? or Who Was Elvis Presley? (though this one may have been interesting)…she chose Who Was Queen Elizabeth? At our house, I ended up doing a lot of the reading aloud to my second-grader. This is not light material. Aside from being shunned by her own father and imprisoned by her sister, her cousin plotted to have her killed. So, it felt somewhat comforting to be together while I relayed these very gruesome, though very real facts. I think a lot of it went over her head, of course, but the basic idea that Queen Elizabeth I overcame many obstacles to become a strong and prosperous ruler came across. And, I loved reading lines like these aloud:

“The young girl who had been shunned by her father had grown to become one of England’s greatest rulers. She had lived in a world where men were thought to be smarter, wiser, and better in all ways than women.” [Read more…]

No Place Like Home

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This past Sunday we had our second Mother-Daughter book club, for which we read A Stepping Stones early reader version of The Wizard of Oz. This series of abridged classics all run about 100 or so pages, which includes illustrations and short chapters. In our experience, I’d say it took about three to five sittings to read the book together; we took turns reading. Along with the length, what I like about this series is that the stories are not watered or dumbed down. The vocabulary is still rich and challenging AND this version includes the original illustrations from the 1900 book. What this also means is that as parent who is most familiar with this story through the 1939 film version of this book, you’ll be surprised and occasionally perplexed by some of the differences, namely:

  • Dorothy’s shoes are silver NOT ruby (we parents decided this decision was most likely due to the advent of technicolor movies and the filmmakers wanting to highlight as many colors as possibly)
  • The Tin Man is actually the Tin Woodman
  • They must all wear special¬† glasses when they reach the Emerald City
  • The Wicked Witch of the West has only one eye – and our girls were keenly tuned in to this fact
  • Glinda, the good witch, does not appear immediately at the end – the group must go on another journey to the Land of the Quadlings find her before having their wishes granted.
  • The book provides ample back stories for each character, which helps you understand more how they each ended up where they did along the yellow brick road.

Like the last meeting, the girls all lasted about 15-20 minutes of discussion before their small bodies led them away towards the grass, the swing set, the trampoline. They each had a favorite character and we discussed times that they felt they had courage, or showed empathy, or maybe used their brains. This time the host provided coloring pages of characters from the book with word searches and mazes. A few of the girls found their way to this activity throughout the afternoon – it was both a nice distraction and a kind of resting place.

At this point, what I’m appreciating about this book club is that it’s forcing my daughter and I to have some extra, quality alone time together. I’ll admit, we have to cram to finish this one in time – so on Saturday, we fled to her room and read together and talked – something I don’t think we’d normally to with such intention on a whim. We parents also discussed that it feels, at this point, like we’re laying important foundation. The girls appreciate the short amount of time we all talk about the book¬† – showing us the student-versions of themselves, and then of course they appreciate the time they have to play.

While I thought the girls would be more keyed in to the idea of Dorothy’s yearning to go home, this did not come up at all. When I think more about it, it makes sense – the girls range in ages from five to seven. None of them has ever left home for an extended period of time – no sleep-away camps even yet, so the idea of being displaced or far from home is not one that can really be explored, yet. It is, however, a frame of reference now, a part of their prior knowledge that they’ll be able to pull from when they read books with similar themes in the future, and this is another reasons I’m glad we’re doing this.

Interesting side-note, at bed-time my daughter asked me: “Why didn’t the Scarecrow also ask for a brain or skin or bones too? Good question.

 

 

 

 

 

“After the cups, the marmalade, the tea,”

A few friends and I have been talking for years about starting a mother-daughter book club when the girls became old enough. Now, with the girls ranging in ages 5-7, we decided to give it a try. First, let me just say, the girls needed absolutely no convincing, which does make me think that this device will probably be even more worthwhile and perhaps necessary for the boys one day. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there. As for the girls, we settled on a Sunday afternoon tea at my house. Four daughter, four mothers. And after much deliberating, I selected The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes for our first read. Choosing books for this format is not as easy as it may seem. All of the girls are reading at different levels, so timing must be considered. Estes’s book, for those who are not familiar, was written in 1944 and deals with timeless issues of class, conformity, and finding one’s voice. Wanda Petronski is a poor Polish girl in Connecticut attending school with girls like Maddie and Peggy. It’s the story of how Wanda copes with how the world treats her, and the lessons that girls like Maddie and Peggy learn when they see how their actions ultimately affects others.

Screen Shot 2015-02-12 at 10.29.28 AM [Read more…]