Monday, April 12, 2004

Book report

I know it won't last, but right at the moment my kids are both showing particular interest in reading. Well, interest might be a little too strong for my daughter, who feels a need to restate after every reading session, even if she admits to liking the story, that she "hates reading." Nevertheless, I must announce with admiration and amazement that she has just finished her most challenging book yet, The Tale of Despereaux by Kate Dicamillo. She'd read and enjoyed -- as much as she'll admit to -- another Dicamillo book, Because of Winn-Dixie, but that was a fairly down-to-earth story with lots of normal-life touchpoints to draw my girl through it. "Desperaux," on the other hand, is all those things she usually shuns -- a long, hard-covered fantasy story about a teeny mouse and an evil rat and a princess named Pea. For perhaps the only child in the western world who does not go wild for Harry Potter, a big fat fantasy story wasn't an obvious choice. But on the plus side, it had short chapters and pictures, and since she'd liked "Winn-Dixie" I thought we'd give it a try. And what do you know? She made it through, staying relatively interested and understanding at least the broadest outlines of the story -- which is, at least to this reading-loving mom, enchanting. If you have a reluctant reader who could use a little challenge, check out this mouse's tale.

My son is not what I'd call a reluctant reader -- he often sits and reads books to his invisible dogs, and shows great interest in the stories his teacher reads the class at school -- but he's frequently reluctant to sit still long enough to be read to by me. Every now and then I'll hit on a book that actually inspires him to sit cuddled next to me and follow my every word, and I'm thrilled to have found another one in "Shiloh Season," the middle book of the Shiloh Trilogy by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. His special-ed class read the first book, "Shiloh," just like all the other fifth-graders this year, and he talked about it so much, making good observations and analogies to other things he'd read and bringing home reports on the story from school, that I bought the sequel in the hopes that I could keep some of that enthusiasm at home. And he is indeed enthralled by the continuing adventures of Marty and his dog Shiloh and the dog's mean former owner, Judd Travers. He's already asking me to pick up the third book in the series, "Saving Shiloh," so I may be getting that sweet mother-son reading time for weeks to come. And when that's done, I'm going to try reading him "Desperaux."

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