Sunday, April 27, 2008

Literary Feasts

Yesterday was one of those days when you've run out of steam and wade in slow motion through the hours until you are vaguely surprised to have reached the end of the day without even having washed the dishes from the night before.

I had, in my defense, after a recuperating doze in the sun on the swing bench, reorganised the bookshelf of children's books with the help of Oldest son, so that they are now cunningly arranged in alphabetical order and reassembled from around the house all in the same bookshelf. They are more than just books. They are a treasured nostalgic collection of all my personal childhood favourites, some that have done the rounds of my husband and his siblings, then his nephews and nieces and finally made their way back to us, plus others that we have collected in second hand bookshops when we were in the UK. Really good books don't date, their pages just start falling out.

The flu fortnight has left us all low on energy reserves, but with all that reading aloud on the sofa, I've made the wonderful discovery that all three of the children are now old enough to enjoy some of these jewels of stories. Even though Youngest punctuates the narrative with constant requests for an explanation of a word or a concept, she can happily listen for as long as I will read.

I've now got two books on the go that I'm reading to them. I started off with The Painted Garden by Noel Streatfield. This tells the tale of an ordinary family of three children, the oldest is a talented ballet dancer, the youngest very musical and the middle one nothing in particular. Streatfield is so good at drawing recognizable portraits of children and the dialogue reads well even though the book must be about sixty years old by now. Though the kids often think that grumpy Jane is rather rude, they really enjoy the sympathetic portrait of her, that shows that you can be bad tempered but still lovable!

Then the two children who had recovered from flu went back to school, so I started another book for Middle Daughter, The Chimneys of Green Knowe by Lucy M. Boston. The others came back from school and started listening to it, so now they are all engrossed in that too.

The Green Knowe books are some of my very favourites from when I was a child. They tell the story of a boy called Tolly, who visits his great-grandmother in the ancient family house. She tells him stories of the children who lived there centuries ago, and eventually he has tantalising glimpses of the children, who play hide and seek around the house and garden with him, and he gets to know them as friends. This second book in the series tells the story of Susan, the blind daughter of the family who lived at the turn of the nineteenth century, and is also part treasure hunt as Tolly tries to find the family jewels that were lost or stolen back in that time, to save his great grandmother from selling a treasured painting of the other sixteenth century children. Youngest is loving the story but is frustrated in trying to understand the crossovers of time and how Tolly can sometimes see and talk to Susan in her time….this is seriously challenging my powers of explanation, I can tell you!

My husband has also read The Sheep Pig by Dick King-Smith and The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner to them over the last week and their aunt has been reading Olga da Polga by Michael Bond, so a veritable literary feast has been gorged on, even though they've hardly eaten a bite of real food while they've been sick.

They are all nearly better now, though poor Middle Daughter keeps suffering a blocked Eustachian tube, which sends her into sobs of pain, usually at bed-time, and has our stress levels going through the roof. Luckily it's a public holiday here tomorrow for Freedom Day, so we have another day of rest, before two whole days of school, then the May Day Holiday on Thursday…so Friday has officially been declared a holiday too. Plenty of time to finish our books!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Kit, what a wonderful way to keep spirits up during illnesses.

    After reading the Deltora series and Rohan of Rin, I haven't been reading to my kids for awhile (oh except for a shorter story for Sally, 'The very naughty mother turns green' and picture books at bedtime). You have inspired me to get back into chapter books for the younger two and offered some great suggestions. Out of the ones you suggested, I've only read The Sheep Pig (brilliant).

    We also enjoyed 'Charlie and the Chocolate Factory' and of course the Narnia books. I was also thinking of The Seven Little Australians.


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