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Sunday, December 10, 2006

Possession: the gender-bending version

Lately LG has been dipping his toes into new and deeper waters: the wild and woolly world of chapter books. You know I've been waiting for this development for what seems like eons, and fearing that it would never come to pass. Oh, he still chooses Magic School Bus books and longer picture books for afternoon reading, and his giant tome de Thomas has not lost its pride of place next to his bedside. But lately he's been begging to get to bed early enough to warrant a chapter or two from more mature reading material before he hushes down to sleep.

The books that really turned the tide for us are several: Pippi Longstocking was a hit, Dav Pilkey's less scary Ricky Ricotta graphic series, and Roald Dahl's shortest chapter books: The Enormous Crocodile, and Fantastic Mr. Fox.

I am the sneaky sort, though, so I've been plotting my next move for quite awhile. LG has a relatively substantial interest in stories from other eras in American history -- Tasha Tudor's lovely Becky's Birthday has long been a favorite here, and a Colonial Williamsburg alphabet book as well. Many months ago I picked up a picture book version of Little House in the Big Woods, and left it casually on a shelf. I think Baby Blue was the first one to notice it there, but LG was intrigued enough to request it a few times.

Then I bought the boxed set of the Little House books from the Scholastic book flyer this fall (it was teh cheap, and my childhood copies have mildewed). When we unpacked all the books, I placed the boxed set on the shelves where the grown-up books go, but at kids' eye level. Sure enough, the kids were drawn to the set if for no other reason than because they cannot resist matching sets of brightly colored objects. They wanted to take the books in and out of the box endlessly. Again, I casually pointed out the first book in the series, and mentioned that it was the same story as the picture book we had looked at.

That was all LG needed to hear. He immediately requested that we sit down on the futon next to the bookshelf and begin reading Little House in the Big Woods. We got through two chapters that afternoon, and we've been reading a chapter every night that conditions allow ever since.

LG loves it. He has lots of questions, of course. Some of them are the questions that you'd expect, of course, about conditions and terms that are totally foreign to life in the United States in the twenty-first century. Some of the questions are sort of surprising -- I hadn't realized how much there is here to be puzzled by if you're a life-long vegetarian who's never heard of ham. (Though I must say that when I first read the books, I had no familiarity with ham, either. We didn't keep kosher in my house growing up, but some foods were always considered too treif for consumption, ham and sausage being chief among them.)

He is also delighted by his new status as a Child Who Reads (er, has read to him, though he is taking steps towards reading independently as well) Big Kid Books. There's no doubt that when Little House in the Big Woods is done, he is going to request another chapter book to take its place at bedtime. I'm guessing that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the front runner for his next choice, but he definitely has designs on the whole Little House series. This morning, Baby Blue reached for one of the alluring books in the boxed set, and LG ran over and pushed her hand away in a frenzy of possessiveness. "Baby Blue!" he yelled. "Those books are not for you! Those books are only for BOYS!"


I corrected him, of course -- I told him that books are for everybody. Not just boys, and not just girls.

But still.


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