It was just a year ago that, all of a sudden, the pieces of literacy fell into place for Griff and within days he went from a kid with a lot of sight words and some rudimentary sounding-out skills to a full-fledged reader. You can imagine how much fun the past year has been - he has read and re-read every picture book and early chapter book we own, he consumes library books by the 2-dozen, he begs for new books constantly. He reads in the car, at breakfast, in the aisles of stores, perched on the windowsills and backs of couches, and in his bed at night by the light of his new booklight.
Last week he came to me, asking if he could read some of Dan's and my books (he considers anything we own beyond explicit juvenile fiction to be a "grownup" book, alas). I told him of course he was welcome to peruse the shelves and that I would help him to find books that he would be interested in and that had subject matter appropriate for him. I suggested fairy tales and he told me that really, he wanted something full of adventure in which something happens. Well, my child, I don't know who (*cough*Disney*cough*) has led you to believe that fairy tales are anything but exciting and adventurous; I loaned him my copy of Andersen's Fairy Tales, with its slightly-warped stories and awkwardly beautiful Arthur Szyk illustrations. It's dark, it's gripping, and the copy that lives at my parents' house was a constant companion for me during my childhood. He lit up. He tried it...but unfortunately, the language is still a little bit of a reach for him. He sampled an E.E. Cummings volume of fairy tales but it didn't hold his attention. Asked for the Sandman graphic novels, to which Dan gave a resounding NO (they have violent images that DAN finds disturbing...not safe for kids). We settled on an old volume of Peanuts cartoons and a promise to visit the library.
Promise kept: he asked to see where the Wickedly Weird books are so that he could look near them for other titles he might like. I showed him once again how the Juvenile Fiction section is organized, and this time, he got it. All of those books, all of them, thousands of them, all at or near his reading level, all waiting for him to pick them up and check them out.
Five minutes later:
Griff: "I have eighteen books! I only need ten more to make 28!"
Jess: "Do you plan to check out 28 books?"
Jess: "I need to let you know that I only have one bag, and all the books have to fit in it..."
Griff: "I can fit them in!"
Jess: "...and I haven't picked books for your brothers yet. You may not fill the whole bag, they get space, too."
Jess: "let's talk about limiting it to...ten books."
Griff: "but mom..."
Jess: "Are you worried you might read them all quickly?"
Jess: "We are not checking out more books. If you read them all, we can come back. We can come back next week. We can come back in two days. Let me know when you've read them all and we'll come get more."
Jess: "This isn't open for negotiation. Ten."
He cut the pile down to ten. I snuck two into my pile (they were really originally chosen for Reese, anyway) and subbed in two age-appropriate graphic novels. We ended up with 25 total books, including his ten and fifteen more for the other boys. He didn't put a single one in my bag. He carried the whole stack to checkout without commenting on the load. He checked them all out himself, restacked them, pinned the top of the stack with his chin, and eagerly schlepped them to the car, not complaining once. He immediately broke into the stash, hungrily reading. I love this. LOVE.
To celebrate a year of avid reading, I should share a couple of favorites, right?
Jason Shiga, Meanwhile
Not just a graphic novel,it's a choose-your-own adventure graphic novel. Cool, right? I introduced Griff to both a standard old-school CYOA book and this one, and both have been HUGE hits. He's obsessively going back and forth to try to exhaust the possibilities and see where each leads and keeps showing it to me and Dan. Fun illustrations, concept, & plot lines. Fabulous update of a classic concept.
Chris Mould, Something Wickedly Weird
Dan and Griff have both been reading this series, which combine adventure, mystery, and a bit of spookiness. What a trifecta. The illustrations mix reality, humor, and creepiness. I suspect Griff's affection for these books is behind his request for exciting books in which something happens. Our library doesn't appear to have copies of the newest two, so I may be introducing Griff to the mysterious wonders of Interlibrary Loan very soon.
Harry Allard, The Stupids Die
I just learned that this slim little book made the 1999-2000 list of most frequently challenged books. I have to admit, when I first saw it in a thrift shop, the word "Stupid" made me cock an eyebrow, but the James Marshall illustrations sucked me in and a few giggles and 75¢ later, I was walking out with this gem. Today we picked up a couple more Stupid stories at the library - the absurdity of this wacky family, their ridiculous adventures, and their commonsense pets makes them a favorite of all three kids, although they especially appeal to Reese's sense of humor. I'll have to keep them in mind for ALA Banned Books Week, too.
Martin Handford, Where's Waldo?
I've recently rediscovered the elusive Waldo and his busy, busy pages and discovered that this book can hold the attention of a two-year-old like nobody's business. Wow. Like a Richard Scarry story, the illustrations are packed with teeny tiny details, enough to keep a child coming back again and again and again. Ok, enough to keep his mom coming back, too. I was always a sucker for Waldo. See you later, I have to find out where he left his canteen.