At this time of year, I love to give books to those that I love. I especially treasure the chance to search out new and unusual books for all the readers in my life. One book that will be under our tree come Christmas morning is the second much anticipated book from Cressida Cowell called The Wizard of Once: Twice the Magic. My ten year old was elated when we discovered the first one in a small book shop in Scotland this summer. After he devoured this tale he wanted more. How could I resist? When the book was released it made its way into my shopping cart to await Christmas morning. Not to be outdone, The Diary of a Wimpy Kid is still a household favourite with my two boys. The newly anticipated The Meltdown will be making an appearance at our house via a gift from Grandma. Jeff Kinney continues to delight not just my kids but also my students who are in grades 9 and 10 especially appealing to my struggling readers. They love the stories and I am happy to offer these books in my classroom library. One recommendation came from a colleague who shared with me Kenneth Oppel’s novel The Boundless. I am often Instagramming (@Miss_T_Books), Facebooking and using Goodreads to share my reading highlights, so he suggested this book to me. Described as both an adventure novel and a murder-mystery it sounds like a delicious read for my son.
Sometimes a book pops out or finds me in the book store. At a recent member’s only shopping event at my local Indigo, I found that book while waiting in the very long line that stretched to the back of the store. Trying to balance my large bundle of books stacked strategically in my arms, I passed the music section with not only biographies and vinyl records on display, but one stand out. Booze & Vinyl: A Spirited Guide to Great Music and Mixed Drinks by André and Tenaya Darlington was that book. I was immediately drawn to the photos, art and recipes knew exactly who would love this book. Three people in fact who are known to mix the odd drink from time to time while listening to various tracks flow from the speakers. These were the people who would love this book so into my bundle it went!
The holidays are that time of year where we can give freely of ourselves, our time and share with others. I am fortunate to be able to give back so each year a few children’s gifts get purchased and with every gift, a book in enclosed. A young girl had asked for arts and crafts so naturally I added a picture book of Georgia O’Keeffe to hopefully inspire this child in her creative quest. For another it was a picture book of penguins. No matter what the gift, a book can inspire, spark that creativity or just be enjoyed on a hot summer night sipping a Queen’s cocktail.
I wonder what books will be under the tree for me?
One of my favourite pastimes is to go on a hunt. Not for the usual suspects like caribou, deer and moose (I’ll leave that to my brother and nephew), but the hunt for odd, rare and unusual books that may have missed my path in a conventional book store.
Today I did go thrifting with the intention of finding a colander (success!) but I also found a treasure trove of books at the St. Vincent De Paul (SSVP) in Cambridge, Ontario. What I love about this thrift store in particular is the attention to detail in their displays (colour co-ordinated), the cleanliness of the store (no musty smell here!) and the treasures I find there. The book department that is pictured has much to choose from. I often gravitate to the children’s section as my boys love to read and be read to. Because the price of books can be out of reach for many parents’ budget, I look to the thrift store and the local library to fill their desire to read.
Today I found a book of poetry by Emily Dickinson but written for children. I studied Dickinson in university but also with my students and her poems can be complicated and dark at times. It was refreshing to find this slim volume on the shelves to introduce some poetry to the boys. I also found a copy of Cue for Treason which I was so tempted to buy but refrained as I don’t think my oldest would be ready for it. As I further explored the very full shelves, I found some good books for my little one who is just starting to read and write. Books about fire trucks, colours, and a moose who takes a bath will keep his interest.
A fan favourite in our house at the moment is the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney. Although my son has read most of them, if not all, I came across a new-to-me copy of the first book. I couldn’t resist. I can leave it in the car, bring it to the trailer or even to Grandma’s house for when he gets bored or needs to have a laugh. Although I walked away with about seven books for the boys I was unsuccessful finding something for me. I was not disappointed as this is part of the fun trying to find a new author on the shelf or a well-known one. All in all I paid $22 for my books and other treasures at this gem of a store.
Aside from visiting this thrift store, I also like to visit my local Hamilton Neighbour to Neighbour Book Store when I can. I discovered more of Ian Rankin here, Canadian fiction on their shelves and many copies of the Geronimo Stilton series. A few titles for me and a few for the kids. Again it is the hunt that excites me. I also enjoy talking to the staff who are made up of volunteers about the different books and they may entice me to try an author I may have passed over. Lastly as a bonus, the cost of the books is a fraction of what I would pay in a book store.
One of the benefits from thrifting for books is to donate the books when I am through with them (unless I loved it!). I am sorry to be missing the Church of the Resurrection’s Annual Book Sale the second Saturday in May this year. Many of my favourites and not so favourite books have made their way to the sale. I love to see the patrons leaving with their huge bag of books knowing the books have a new home and they only spent $4. Cheap entertainment indeed.
So I will keep on the hunt thrifting and sifting for gold among the well-loved books of people’s past. Who knows, maybe the next author I discover will be you!
Robert Munsch is one of Canada’s best known storytellers. I had the opportunity to see him live at Hamilton Place when my son was young; too young to appreciate the sheer genius of this person. As my son grew older his admiration of Munsch grew and he looked forward to snatching his stories off the shelf at our local library.
So much of what Munsch says in a story is how he says it and that resonates with both children and their parents. He is loud, he is ridiculous and most of all, he is honest in his books. Children can relate to the characters and the situations that each of Munsch’s protagonist finds his or herself in. For example in Mortimer this young boy promises to go to sleep but chaos ensues with his love of noise or as some might see it, his singing voice. Given the right amount of enthusiasm, this can be a hilarious selection for bedtime. My son loved that song and laughed each time I sang it to him in my loudest singing voice. Further Munsch’s story Makeup Mess is so absurd that the listener cannot help but laugh at Julie who is just trying to find the right way to express herself. The story is very clever in the sense that it teaches indirectly about financial literacy or saving your pennies and the importance of believing in and loving oneself.
If I tell those Munsch stories and others like them in a dramatic, enthusiastic way, I am encouraging my children to read. They want another story or for me to tell it again! If you have ever had the chance to visit a really good children’s section of your local public library or observe a JK – Grade 3 class in action during story time it can be captivating seeing all those little bums move closer and closer to the reader, eyes wide and giggling as the story unfolds. This is a skill that these librarians and teachers have. They are natural and the flow of the story keeps those children listening.
“Storytelling is the social and cultural activity of sharing stories, often with improvisation, theatrics, or embellishment. Stories or narratives have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and instilling moral values” (Wikipedia, 2017). When one examines our different cultures there is almost always some sort of history of oral storytelling that reveals who and where we came from. When I was teaching the older grades, we would study the ballad. This form of writing was genius for its time period. We studied The Highway Man by Alfred Noyes, The Wasteland by T. S. Eliot and another by Eliot, The Love Son of J. Alfred Prufrock. These poems, spoken with dramatic flair and feeling made each protagonist come alive. This was always one of my favourite sections to study as both teacher and student. The stories would provoke questions and invitations to study that particular writer further thereby promoting more reading.
As both a parent, a teacher and former teacher-librarian, I have the highest regard for master storytellers like Robert Munsch who can captivate a reader with the greatest of ease. It is a difficult skill to possess and not everyone is a natural storyteller like Munsch. But don’t be discouraged. Read to your children in your silliest voice, loudest or quietest tone and with your best facial expressions. Your children will be delighted!
Bedtime reading with my children is non negotiable even when I am exhausted. From the womb I was reading to my bio-baby and we have loved stories ever since. So many parents can underestimate the importance of reading early and often to their children.
From the parent lens, I know the importance of reading to my children each day. We talk about the stories and sometimes make up stories along the way and the results have been amazing! We love to go to the library and bookstore and seek out new reads and old favourites.
Recently we read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane by the talented Kate DiCamillo. The story was so beautifully illustrated by the Bagram Ibatoulline and we were utterly captivated by the story and the journey that Edward the China Rabbit made. Aside from the wonderful story, it was a time for us to bond after the busyness of school and activities. There were many questions about Edward and the different characters who found him every few chapters. It took us many nights to get through the story but that time with my son was gold. Next we hope to tackle The Little Prince by author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.
Tonight I had the pleasure of reading to my foster son a silly book with nursery rhymes. As I sang Three Little Monkeys and the other rhymes in the book, he started to participate and be silly with me. This amazing child cannot get enough of books and is so wanting to read. He will get there – that I have no doubt. Yet because I do not know if he was exposed to reading in his first four years, I worry needlessly. This beautiful child cannot get enough of the books that fill the shelves in our home and we are incredibly fortunate to have a supportive SK teacher who encourages his reading and writing.
So as a final thought about bedtime reading, I encourage all parents to take that time to read to their children and have them read to you when they are ready. It will amaze you!