Saturday, May 21, 2016

Week in Review: Edward Lear, Rudyard Kipling, and Blaise Pascal

As always, we've been doing lots of reading.

In My Book House (Volume 2) - I read Gemma "Nutcracker and Sugar-dolly" (for the third time). I'm not quite sure what it is about this story that she likes so much, because it's not one of my favorites, but she loves it. We also read a Brazilian tale about how the green and gold beetle got its coloring, and how the little blue beetle got its coloring and small size. She asked for that story two nights in a row. Finally, we read "Clytie," the sea nymph who becomes a sunflower, and the mother of all sunflowers.

My friend Frankie sent Gemma a book from France - Cropetite - which Frankie translated into English for Gemma. Gemma loved it! Frankie has sent us three books, all of which happen to be about French caves! One is about the Gouffre de Padirac (which I would love to someday see in person), the second is about Lascaux, and the third is the story of Cropetite, a little girl who lives in prehistoric Les Eyzies, not far from the town where Frankie lives.

The Jungle Book - We finished "The White Seal," which is not for the sensitive child. It's about a seal named Kotick. At the story's climax, Kotick fights the other seals to prove he is the alpha, and to get the other seals to follow him to a place where they will be safe from hunters. It's a violent scene, and Kotick ends up covered in blood. While I was reading that part, Gemma was in tears, crying, "I don't want Kotick to die! I don't want Kotick to die!" My first inclination was to tell her that he wasn't going to die, he was going to be fine. But the next day, I was thinking about her reaction, and whether the story was too much for her, and then I thought maybe it's good that she feels so deeply. Maybe it's good that she is so emotionally invested in this character that he has become a living being, and that she doesn't want a living thing to feel pain.

We are still slowly making our way through The Ology.

Gemma read aloud to me The Owl and the Pussycat (Lear, illustrated by Jan Brett), a library book.

I also checked out and read aloud to Gemma A Book of Nonsense written and illustrated by Edward Lear. The copy was a reproduction of - according to the book jacket - "a rare copy published around 1870, in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the first in which the drawings appeared in color." 
Gemma is also reading to me a Magic Tree House book and Pippi Longstocking. Pippi is a "fourth grade book," and I'm tickled when I hear words like "remarkable" and "delightful" roll off her tongue.

Teaching her to read has made me think about how special "fourth grade books" are. "Fourth grade books" include Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Charlotte's Web, Mr. Popper's Penguins, and The Mixed-Up Files of Basil E. Frankweiler, not to mention the entire Little House series. What is it about this level? There is something significant that happens when a child can read a "fourth grade book" on her own. The characters are now real, which means that befriending them and being told that they hurt, either physically or emotionally, hurts us. And that kind of interaction with text - the experience of simultaneously being alone and feeling empathy - does something to us; it opens a door to our future as readers.

We're in Life of Fred: Dogs. I came home one day and Gemma "confessed" that she had taken the next LOF off the shelf and read the first chapter. "I can't help it, Mom! I just want to learn!" I had to turn away to keep from laughing at my guilt-ridden five year old. My initial thought of putting the rest of the Freds on a higher shelf made me think of the story of Blaise Pascal's father locking up the books to keep Blaise from teaching himself. Leaving the Freds where they are won't hurt anyone.

There was swimming...
...
and ballet...
...and a trip with friend J to the Skirball Museum to explore Noah's Ark and be archaeologists. 


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