Monday, February 2, 2009

So Sleepy Story . . .

When you push a child to read (or hear)
books beyond what they are used to, you
can get some wonderful results. As we come
closer to the end of How to Steal a Dog by
Barbara O'Connor, my younger son has decided he
needs a break. I don't think he's ever heard or read
a story with quite so much tension. He babbles:
"Let's take a break. There's just so much going on
in that story! I mean, let's just take a break
for tonight!" I dare not mention that I, me, moi,
am dying to find out what happens in this book
that tells the story of two kids who steal a
dog, hoping to get the reward for returning it.
Then, being almost seven, he spouts off lots
of irrelevent details as a form of rationale.

So I say fine and grab Ivy and Bean by Annie
Barrrows and offer to read a few chapters.
I also grab a picture book by Uri Shulevitz that
I got before I left FSG, where it was published.
(Uri just won a big award for his newest book
called How I Learned Geography.)

I have never read Ivy and Bean, so I have no idea
what to expect. Also, I am trying to write a book
for this exact audience, so I am paying very close
attention. After four chapters, we were ready to move
on to the picture book. I liked Ivy and Bean.
It's heavily illustrated, making it great for kids who
are more comfortable with pictures. The two girls
in the book are just getting to meet by the time we
finish a few chapters and there seems to be lots of
potential for mayhem. That's what kids love.
They love crazy schemes!

I pulled out So Sleepy Story. My older son had his
head in a book of tricky tricks or something or other. He reads
things like the Monopoly Player's Handbook for fun.
I am not kidding at all. He would read an entire book
on card tricks. He has!

We opened up So Sleepy Story, and I will tell you
exactly what this kind of book is--it's a poem.
And it's beautiful, and if you couldn't see the
illustrations, but only heard the text, you would
never imagine the story being told in pictures:

Sleepy chairs
by sleepy table
sleepy pictures
on sleepy wall

Henry really liked it and felt music in the words.
He is a little bit of a rock star, I might add.
And next thing I know, he's twisting like Elvis
and making up a jazzy old tune for the
lines in the book, and he makes it sound
like that's how it the book should always be
be read. I know--he's my own kid, yes, I know--
but I have watched him go from having absolutely no
connection to reading on his own--to this--in about
one year. It's startling.

When we finished he told me he was bringing
Ivy and Bean up to bed to read more.
And he did. Reading gives him a kind of
confidence that kids can only get by
really truly accomplishing something.

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