As most of you know, our home is filled with books. Chris and Clara have been going to the used bookstore every Saturday after breakfast for several years now. And every Saturday, at least one new book finds a good home here. Even before Clara was born, Chris and I talked about instilling a love of reading in our children and that was one thing we decided we would spoil them with. Our motto: you can’t have too many books.
We also make sure that Clara chooses most of them. We don’t want to dictate everything that she must read. From what I’ve heard, allowing kids to choose their own reading material is an important part of instilling that love of reading. So although we would prefer not to have Dora or princess books, we do have some. She’s chosen some real winners over the years but thankfully, Jill buys back books.
We all read a book together every evening after I put Robert down for bed. Chris and I usually do the choosing for our family reading. Right now we’re reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’ve had a lot of people ask me what books we’ve read, so I thought I’d put a short review of some of them up here.
I do have to interject one thing about our choices in reading material. I know my opinion differs greatly from a lot of other young parents, but I don’t think we give kids enough credit these days. I think we shelter them far too much and as a result, they’re unable to deal with the negative aspects of life. I believe that allowing some books and movies that have a little more sinister edge to them gives them a glimpse of real life in a safe environment. It allows them to imagine and work through some of these things in their mind before they actually experience them. I think if we wait until they’re older to introduce the ideas that there are bad people or death or disease or hatred or poverty or even good people that sometimes do bad things, that it’s much more difficult to work through those concepts. But as I said, this is just one person’s opinion. I know there are others that disagree.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory— We’re not quite done with it yet, but I’ve liked it and so has Clara. She didn’t like it at first though because of the illustrations. They look like doodles and have a very messy look to them. She just couldn’t handle the ugliness. I convinced her to stick with it a couple of days and she loves it now. There is some language that some may not approve of. The word fat is used to describe people and Willy Wonka and the oompa-loompas say pretty mean things about the kids. But to be fair, the kids are brats. I like that we’ve been able to talk about the children’s behavior and how inappropriate they’re acting. Clara gets this appalled look on her face when the kids aren’t listening to Willy Wonka or are ordering their parents around. She’s also beginning to understand why we don’t allow her do everything she wants to do. The old movie follows the book pretty closely and there have been only minor differences. For the record, I hate it when movies deviate too far from the book. All in all, I think most of my friends with kids close to Clara’s age would feel this book is a bit inappropriate.
Chronicles of Narnia— We’ve read four of the seven in the series. Clara has enjoyed all that we’ve read. There is some controversy regarding which order they should be read in, whether chronological or by publication date. I personally think you should read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe first. I think that discovering Narnia through the children’s eyes is one of the most magical parts of that story. I did enjoy The Magician’s Nephew, which is the first book chronologically. It is filled with Christian symbolism and describes the creation of Narnia. I loved the imagery. It’s also fun to discover little details about Narnia after getting to know the land in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Prince Caspian has been my least favorite so far (and Clara’s as well). Surprisingly though, she really liked The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. It is filled with maritime vocabulary that neither of us was familiar with which made for a more difficult read. Now she knows what starboard, port, aft and oh, what’s the last one? Bow? Fore? Anyway, she also loved it when they were on the poop deck. She giggled every time. There’s lots of adventure in this one as they stop off at islands on a quest that takes them to the end of the world. The story does drag when they’re on the water for days at a time.
I think if you have a child that loves stories and being read to, 5 is a good age. If they get bored easily though, you might want to wait. There are pictures every few pages to kind of hold their interest. There’s not too much I think parents would find inappropriate other than a few words here and there. There is of course, quite a bit of good vs. evil but I think most people know that about this series. There’s lots to discuss about honor, forgiveness, sacrifice, loyalty, humility, greed and the list goes on and on. They really are filled with wonderful lessons for both children and adults.
After you’ve read the books, check out the BBC’s version of them on dvd. They’re a hoot. They were filmed in the late eighties and are awesomely awful if you know what I mean. Aslan is a stuffed lion and the only thing that moves is his mouth when he talks and roars, and it only moves up and down, and not in sync with the words. See? Awesome. Mr. and Mrs. Beaver are adult actors that walk around like normal, just in beaver suits. And the mythical creatures that Aslan calls to battle like the pegasus and griffon, are animated. All in all, it’s a much more child-friendly version of Narnia than the Disney ones.
Books of Wonder— You may not be familiar with this series, but you may have heard of the first book in the series, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I believe there are nine in the whole series; we’ve read the first two. Mr. Baum never intended to write a series. The only reason he wrote more was because he was flooded with letters from children wanting to know what happens next, so as they kept sending letters, he kept writing them. If I remember correctly, he actually used some of the ideas the kids sent him in some of the books. Because of that though, from what I understand, the rest of the series is not on par with the first book.
Clara and I both loved the first book. There is a lot more to the book than what’s in the movie. The second book was only so-so. Clara has said she doesn’t want to read any more from the series but I’m going to see if I can change her mind some day.
Little House— There are nine in the series, but we’ve only read the first one, Little House in the Big Woods. Unfortunately, Clara wasn’t too interested in it. I was actually a little bored with it myself. It’s basically Laura’s memoirs so there are lots of technical details. For example, you learn the entire processes involved in making maple syrup candy, butchering a pig, and making cheese. The explanations are long and drawn out and just didn’t hold her attention. She hasn’t wanted to read the next one but I suspect she’ll be ready for them in a year or so. I would recommend getting the collector’s editions. They’re available in paperback and have full color original illustrations which helped keep Clara’s attention.
Paddington Bear— Neither Clara nor I liked the bear too much. I wanted to like him so bad, but alas, he was boring. The book we have introduces him and you find out where he comes from and how he got to England. It’s divided into around 10 short, unrelated stories. The language was very formal. I just kept thinking, “why don’t they keep a closer eye on that bear?!?” I mean really, don’t take a bear home if you don’t plan on watching him. (And for the record, I kind of like Curious George, so it’s not just that he’s a wild animal brought to live in the city and keeps getting into messes.) He’s a very sweet, unassuming bear but I just couldn’t bring myself to like him or feel sorry for the messes he kept getting himself into. So am I missing something? Is there a Paddington fan out there that can explain his appeal?
Raggedy Ann— We’ve only read The Raggedy Ann Stories, which is a compilation of a bunch of short stories. I don’t know much about all of the books, but I do know there are several longer stories that I’ve heard are very good. I don’t think they’re in print, so they are a little harder to come by. It took 3 or 4 stories before Clara got into Raggedy Ann, but by the end she loved the little rag doll. I was pleasantly surprised as well with the quality of the stories. Raggedy Ann is just bursting at the seams with wonderful character traits. She’s the leader of the group of dolls but is very humble. The other dolls just adore her and she is very giving and compassionate to everyone.
One story in particular really tugged at my heartstrings. One day Marcella (the dolls’ owner) is gifted a set of very expensive dolls that make fun of Raggedy Ann because she’s just an old rag doll. That night, Marcella leaves them sitting uncomfortably at the table so Raggedy Ann gets out of her comfy bed, carries them to her bed to sleep and then sleeps on the floor. They wake the next morning with a much more pleasant attitude toward Raggedy Ann.
I would say most 4 year old girls would be ready for Raggedy Ann. I don’t think she would hold the interest of younger girls though and I can see some girls never really getting into the stories much, but perhaps the longer stories are more engaging. Oh, and if you go looking for Raggedy Ann books, you’ll find a lot of newer books with new illustrations. I don’t know if they are remakes or are totally new stories by a different author, but I’m a snob about that kind of stuff and I prefer the originals. I don’t understand why they feel the need to re-vamp these classic stories and illustrations. They’re perfect just the way they were originally intended to be presented.
I have more books to add, but blogger isn’t allowing me to save this, so I need to go ahead and publish it before I lose it. I’ll add more to it later.