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Anita Dualeh and Her Reading Team
October 2020

It’s always fun to catch up with one of our Read­ing Teams and see what titles have become new favorites for them. This month, how­ev­er, Ani­ta Dualeh and her sons are revis­it­ing OLD favorites: pic­ture books that were once beloved by Anita’s boys, but that they have now out­grown at ages 10 and 12. Below, Ani­ta describes what hap­pens when her Read­ing Team reex­am­ines these child­hood favorites through their more “grown-up” eyes:

The Snowy DayOne evening a few months ago, I came down to our office to find my son Adam fin­ish­ing up The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. He recalled that we used to read the book togeth­er. “Whis­tle for Willie is by the same author.” “We still have that book too,” I said as I went to retrieve it from the pic­ture book col­lec­tion that has been rel­e­gat­ed to the util­i­ty room.

I’ll read it — for old time’s sake,” he said, feel­ing like he need­ed an excuse to read some­thing that seemed child­ish to him now. That got me think­ing about revis­it­ing some of the well-loved books from my sons’ ear­li­er years. How well would the books hold up to the crit­i­cal eye of a 10- or a 12-year-old? I col­lect­ed some of their for­mer favorite sto­ries and we sat down one evening togeth­er to re-read some well-loved sto­ries. At first, Adam, my old­er son, tried to give the impres­sion that he wasn’t real­ly lis­ten­ing, in an attempt to com­mu­ni­cate “I’m old­er than that.” Caleb was a lit­tle bet­ter sport but, as usu­al, was influ­enced by Adam’s view to some extent.

Clip, ClopThe first book we read, Clip-Clop by Nico­la Smee, didn’t do much but con­firm their feel­ings. It was one of the first books Adam had request­ed by name when he was a tod­dler. He didn’t remem­ber that, and he no longer had fond feel­ings for the book. My boys thought the sto­ry line was too sim­ple for them now, and they no longer appre­ci­ate the repet­i­tive phras­es in the text.

I Stink!The next book didn’t get a much bet­ter recep­tion. We often used to check I Stink! by Kate and Jim McMul­lan out of the library, with its accom­pa­ny­ing CD. The boys both went through a phase when they would lis­ten repeat­ed­ly to this sto­ry about a garbage truck and his night­ly work. I guess we should have checked out the CD again for the full effect. As it was, my read­ing of the book dredged up no real pos­i­tive mem­o­ries. They just thought the text was sil­ly and won­dered why younger kids are so fas­ci­nat­ed by garbage trucks. 

Yellow ElephantYel­low Ele­phant: A Bright Bes­tiary by Julie Lar­ios was anoth­er favorite of Adam’s — he used to head right for the bin in the children’s sec­tion where he knew it would be “shelved.” He want­ed me to read it over and over to him, and still liked it when I read it to him and Caleb a few years lat­er. “I remem­ber this book,” Caleb said with a smile. We all admired the illus­tra­tions by Julie Paschkis, and not­ed this time how pret­ty the gold finch is. A few years ago, I found a used copy of this book for pur­chase, so now we have it on the book­shelf in the liv­ing room. Still, it had been a year or two since we’d last read it. About mid­way through read­ing it this time, Adam said, “these poems are for any age.” I agree. 

Scaredy SquirrelWe found that Scaredy Squir­rel by Mélanie Watt seemed to have tak­en on added mean­ing thanks to the pan­dem­ic. I used to read this book to Caleb fre­quent­ly, but this time, we were struck by how com­mon­place it now seems to heed the warn­ing inside the front cov­er: “Scaredy Squir­rel insists that every­one wash their hands with antibac­te­r­i­al soap before read­ing this book.” At the start of the sto­ry, the squir­rel nev­er leaves his tree, and every day is the same. We can so well relate to stay­ing home and think­ing that every day feels exact­ly the same. Scaredy Squir­rel even has a face mask and rub­ber gloves in his emer­gency kit, details we hadn’t tak­en much note of in all pri­or read­ings. But the squirrel’s self-quar­an­tine came to an end after he dis­cov­ered that noth­ing hor­ri­ble had hap­pened when he fell, pro­pelled out of this tree into the unknown. We were able to vic­ar­i­ous­ly enjoy Scaredy Squirrel’s “dras­tic changes” in his dai­ly rou­tine as we hold out hope for the day when we aren’t so con­fined to our own liv­ing space.

Adam, Anita, and Caleb reading Scaredy Squirrel

Adam, Ani­ta, and Caleb read­ing Scaredy Squir­rel

Get Me to the Ark on TimeThe last book we read that evening was Get Me to the Ark on Time, writ­ten and illus­trat­ed by Cuyler Black. A riff on the flood account from the Torah, the sto­ry is pre­sent­ed in car­toon for­mat, nar­rat­ed by a flamin­go and an anteater. This book held their atten­tion, and the ban­ter between the nar­ra­tors still pro­duced a few smiles.

Then it was bed­time. As the boys drift­ed to their rooms, I was left with lin­ger­ing mem­o­ries of years gone by and filled with grat­i­tude for the bonds that have been forged over the years through the shar­ing of sto­ries. This is rea­son enough to per­sist with read-alouds, even as we move into the teen years. No, pre­cise­ly because we’re mov­ing into those tur­bu­lent years.

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Bookol­o­gy is always look­ing for new Read­ing Teams to help us cel­e­brate the joys of read­ing aloud togeth­er. Con­tact Lisa Bullard for fur­ther infor­ma­tion if you’re inter­est­ed in participating.

4 Responses to Anita Dualeh and Her Reading Team
October 2020

  1. battsetseg October 28, 2020 at 11:07 am #

    con­grat­u­la­tions my teacher and I am always proud of you. From Mongolia

    • Anita October 30, 2020 at 7:57 pm #

      Thanks for read­ing, Battset­seg — and for stay­ing in touch.

  2. Melanie October 30, 2020 at 11:40 am #

    I love this, Ani­ta! How inter­est­ing to hear their take on favorites years lat­er. And I agree whole heart­ed­ly about read­ing through the teen years!

    • Anita October 30, 2020 at 8:33 pm #

      Thanks, Melanie. You know, a few months ago I asked each of my sons, “What to your par­ents do that makes you feel loved?”
      My old­er son said, “Read to us, I guess, because you could be doing oth­er things — or you could just read to yourself…”

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