This has almost been a non-reading month for me personally. That does not, of course, mean that I haven’t been reading. Not by a long shot! I’ve been reading aloud to my children, as usual, and I’ve even managed to review some picture books this month. There are a couple of chapter books, though, that we read that I haven’t gotten around to reviewing, so I’m going to share my thoughts on them here today.
I purchased the Oxford Illustrated Classics adaptation of Don Quixote because it was recommended in the activity guide to Story of the World volume 3. I have never read Cervantes’ original work, so I suppose I should offer the disclaimer that I knew next to nothing about the story when I started reading this retelling by Michael Harrison. Well, what a fun story this one is! Everyone probably already knows that it’s the story of Don Quixote, who’s just maybe a little bit crazy, and his desire to go questing like a real knight. The humor and Don Quixote’s over-the-top antics weren’t lost on my girls. Harrison’s prose is descriptive but not oversimplified:
The rain fell steadily, and so did Sancho Panza’s spirits. The more water there was around him, the further away the island he had been promised seemed to float. It is difficult to believe in heroic deeds and great rewards with rain stinging your eyes and trickling down your neck. Don Quixote was quiet, too. If the great enchanter kept up his tricks, how was he to achieve glory? So the bedraggled pair rode on in silence on their miserable beasts.
Towards noon, the clouds broke and the sun beamed down. As their clothes streamed in the heat their gloom lifted. Don Quixote raised his eyes and saw a knight wearing a golden helmet riding towards them. Sancho Panza raised his eyes and saw a village barber riding his donkey–and this, of course, is who it was. A few small villages provided enough work for one barber between them and so he rode from one to another, taking his tools with him. A brass basin is essential for shaving, but it’s an awkward thing to carry, especially in the rain. If you put it on your head, your hands are free and your head is dry. (32)
Illustrator Victor G. Ambrus’ illustrations are very comical and added much to our enjoyment of this classic. (Even the DLM listened in, though he much prefers Eric A. Kimmel’s Don Quixote and the Windmills. ) I will definitely be on the look out for more books from the Oxford Illustrated Classics series. (Oxford UP, 1995)
We also read Newbery honor-winning Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo this month because it was the selection-of-the-month for the mother-daughter bookclub at the library. It was a rather anticlimactic read for all of us, I think, because we had all already read it. For some reason I thought it was necessary for us to read it together. It’s a funny and sweet story, and it’s especially easy to read aloud (with bonus easy points if you’re a Southerner–the Southern speech patterns and sayings just roll off the tongue). I used to read this one to my third grade classes when I was an elementary librarian. Now that I’m a parent instead, I noted some things that I didn’t note as a public school employee: namely, that there seems to be a bit of relativism in the story when Gloria Dump tells Opal that she did the bad things in her past (“with or without alcohol”) before she “learned what is the most important thing.” When Opal asks what the most important thing is, Gloria responds with “It’s different for everyone.” Hmmm. As a Christian I reject the notion that we should just choose our own god to whom we owe allegiance, which is what this sounds a bit like to me. (Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it did give me an opportunity to talk with my girls about Truth.) Anyway. It’s a fun story, and there are certainly bits of truth in it, especially in its overall theme of sadness and joy being inextricably mixed up in this world. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and pick it up. It has short, short chapters and large print, so it’s a very quick read. My favorite DiCamillo story is The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, but I like this one, The Tiger Rising, and The Tale of Despereaux all equally well. (Candlewick, 2000)
I’m still reading Thimble Summer aloud with Lulu and Caddie Woodlawn aloud with Louise. Whew. Our current together read-aloud is The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander, and then we’re on to The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright, which is March’s mother-daughter bookclub selection, chosen by us.
Last, I wanted to share a link to a great thread over on the Well-Trained Mind forums. I asked forum members to share their current read-alouds, so consider this a long list of possible read-alouds for your family!
Share links to your RAT posts below, or tell us about your read-alouds in the comments. Don’t forget to visit other RAT participants’ posts, too, please!
Happy Read Aloud Thursday!