We did a lot of reading aloud in August, but didn’t complete many longer books so this makes for a short post. However, we are currently in the midst of four books that we’ll finish soon and have several more on deck, so next month’s read aloud review will be a smorgasbord!
We all enjoyed The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy. I liked the emphasis on kids making their own adventures, negotiating sibling relationships in an on-the-same-team sense, and the kids liked the characters and story. My only complaints are that some of the adult characters seemed two-dimensional (nobody is really all oozy evil all the time–even in kid lit) and there were some scenes where the 12 year old girl thinks quite a lot about kissy stuff. I elected to skip those parts, because it’s not the stage we’re in and I see no point in encouraging the idea that it’s cute to gush over or try to kiss boys as a preteen. You may differ with me there, and it’s not that I don’t want to discuss those issues with my kids, just that I see no reason to bring them up prematurely or indicate that I think they ought to be thinking or acting that way. It’s a complicated question, and one on which parents differ, I’ve found. Anyway, there are other Penderwick books and we will probably read them to catch back up with the sisters and interesting boy.
In our poetry reading, we finished The Barefoot Book of Classic Poems. To be honest, I didn’t love this one and probably won’t circle back to it. Many of the poems were great, but several were ones I didn’t think were particularly important for children to know, more like the kind of thing that adults would want to study in the sense of not being particularly suited for children topically or appealing for reading aloud. Also, I didn’t love the illustrations. They seem like the sort of drawings young teenagers do before they realize that they need to learn some more technique. They felt sort of off to me, and not excellent or unusual in style or composition.
I feel bad writing a harsh review of a book of poetry, especially when many of the selections were great, but it wasn’t exactly our cup of tea.
I saw Betsy and the Emperor recommended somewhere and so when we started studying Napoleon I checked it out for Hannah to read. After she had read it a couple of times (she likes to re-read things) I read it. Well. At first the book does seem like the story of a spunky 14-year-old determined to befriend the 49-year-old exiled emperor (the story is historical fiction–there really was a Betsy on St. Helena). However, in the course of the book Betsy makes out with a soldier, she observes through a window the wife of one of Napoleon’s friends get into bed with Napoleon, Napoleon reads aloud a newspaper speculation that he’s involved with Betsy romantically, Betsy is shut into a wine cellar and drinks an entire bottle of wine and is hungover the next day, and Betsy discovers her soldier amorously entangled with another girl. Good grief! Hannah is only eight! I talked to her about the book and think most of this went over her head, although she opined that things must have been very different for 14-year-olds back then, because Betsy seems to have thought she was old enough to get married, and Hannah also thought the soldier was not very trustworthy. Mostly Hannah wanted to talk about Napoleon’s exile and how it was different from his exile on Elba. So that was good.
I read a lot of inappropriate stuff as a kid, and I guess it’s just one of those things when you have a kid who reads ahead of grade level and voraciously. But still, she’s eight! Suffice it to say, I wouldn’t recommend this book for elementary age kids. Pretty interesting insight into Napoleon’s last exile though.
What did you read aloud this month?
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