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.

 

 

 

 

 

Poetry for Young Readers

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Yes, I’ll admit it, I was among the few who fell prey to The Paris Review’s April Fool’s joke, in which they presented the debut issue “for young readers.” But there was so much to be excited about: an interview with Eric Carle, fiction for children by Marilynne Robinson, poetry by Charles Simic – how can you blame us? Why should we have to settle for Highlights? Even my six-year-old briefly glances at this “glossy” before tossing it aside like it’s US Weekly or Hello! magazine. It doesn’t seem right that there’s no monthly collection of literary work geared towards kids (that I know of at least). I was legitimately excited about this debut and then equally destroyed to realize how gullible I am. But the lingering yearning for such a periodical remains. As now that we’re in the midst of another National Poetry Month, I crave a collection of poetry that does not talk down to kids. [Read more…]

It’s Eye-n not Anne

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In the wake of my Grandmother’s recent passing at 94, I’ve been reminded of her influence in my life as I move throughout out my house. We shared a love of books and reading and when I decided to gather the many books she has bestowed on me over the years, I realized how literary Grandma really was. Though she wanted to be a teacher, college was not in the cards for her. She took a secretarial position in Stamford, eventually met my Grandfather, had my aunt and my mother, moved to Darien, and as the Stamford Advocate reported: “In Noroton Heights, Irene and Arne Ohrn ran a diner, a “don’t miss” morning stop for “coffee and” as tradesmen and store-keepers gathered to exchange information and gibes.” How cool that people exchanged gibes? We don’t use that word enough. [Read more…]