Sunday, July 26, 2009

s u m m e r r e a d i n g

Summer is half over and it's proven to be a great summer for reading.
In Riverside Park, I spotted a little girl reading while hula hooping.
Extraordinary, I thought to myself. I remember being a kid and it was probably Pippy Longstocking I was carrying around--or Judy Blume. I wish I had thought to hula hoop and read silmultaneously! More summer readers spotted: My little friend Ethan is so excited by Louis Sachar's Wayside School Stories, he reads while riding his bike. Bumping into the park steps, he probably doesn't even realize his training wheels are responsible for this superhuman ability. His birthday was today and we gave him a set of Melvin Beederman books. His twin brother Jake got a lovely Uri Shulevitz picture book called Dawn and one more.

A lot of parents have been asking me what to suggest for the seven year old reader--and Melvin Beederman is great. My son is reading them and reporting everything that happens to this unlikely superhero. The series is a chapter book series, but good for beginning readers. Predictable, funny, big type, lots of white space and the best part--illustrations. I can also suggest the MY WEIRD SCHOOL series. They start with Miss Daisy is Crazy and go on forever. The author is Dan Gutman, a true kids book veteran! I bought some recently and they are sold at the price of four for three, at least on Amazon. Henry and his friends are wild for them.

My local independent book store is the delightful and ridiculously irresistable Bank Street Books. For Henry (7) I got some Stink books--also perfect for the almost-second grader. Stink is Judy Moody's little brother. Apparently he has his own website! Shock! I picked up a few books for my soon-to-be ten year old--but they were each read in one day. Middle-grade books are wonderful, but for a fast reader, they are the kiss of death. The ones I bought? When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead (about time travel and friendship) and The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin (about a boy who finds puzzles everywhere. Gus also read the 4th book in the 39 Clues series in a day. This fall, we are going to get a library card--how else can we support this habit? I considered a kindle for him, but alas, he's only almost ten!

I told my friends today that when their kids ask to do anything electronic (tv, Nintendo DS, Wii...) you should just tell then "YES, dear--but first you have to read two chapters." Many times they will be too hooked to stop reading. Try it!

I continue to develop my own chapter book targeted at third grade girls. In so doing, I have learned a lot about procrastination. I have 14 chapter summaries down--and now everything is...shall I say...simmering. I often mention a book called How Fiction Works by James Wood, but I must reiterate how much I have enjoyed it. I recommend it as a source of pure joy and entertainment for anyone who loves to be amazed by writing. Tolstoy, Shakespeare, Dostoyevsky, and more than anyone--Flaubert is discussed. And always with examples of their magnificent writing. An excerpt from To the Lighthouse (Virginia Wolff) was so lovely.

In a few weeks we are off to Barcelona--and getting very excited. The books Gus and Henry read there will always remind them of Spain, so I hope we pick some good ones!
Happy summer.