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:
One 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.
The 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.
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 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.
We 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.
The 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.
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.