This month, Raising Star Readers contributor Constance Van Hoven has extended both her Reading Team and the fun by hosting a Zoom get-together for all of her grandkids. Here’s Connie’s description of the event, one that might rightfully be titled “A Serious Case of the Sillies.”
I’ll be honest, this installment of Raising Star Readers should be called “Raising Gigi’s Spirits.” The thing I miss most about spending time with my Reading Team (Priya and Nikhil), and our other grandkids as well, is sharing laughter — everything from giggles to rolling-on-the-floor belly laughs. Family video chats are great, but often the discussion turns to serious topics like who got vaccinated, who started going to school in person, who is finding work difficult, etc. I have been longing for a way to escape the COVID cloud and simply have fun together.
Recently, I found the inspiration I was searching for from a group called Random Acts of Silliness—a children’s theater and public art organization in Bozeman, Montana, where I live. The group sponsored a pop-up exhibit at a park featuring fourteen life-sized sculptures made by local artists. The figures were whimsical, colorful, silly, and each presented with an accompanying short story.
My husband and I took the self-guided, socially-distanced tour of the “Menagerie of the Imaginary” on an otherwise dreary winter day. My favorite creation? “Delowlah Lu,” fashioned by mixed media artist Vicki Fish. And I also loved Vicki’s story about this child of the woods that collects smiles in her pockets!.
I wished we could share the tour and all of its silliness with our grandkids in person, but virtually would have to do. On a cold and snowy Sunday afternoon I invited all seven of the grandkids and their parents to enjoy photos of the menagerie in the park and then to share a silly picture book of their choice during a Zoom meeting. Even though several of the kids are past the picture book stage (which you and I know can never truly happen), I knew they would have old favorites to share. And they didn’t disappoint…
If potty humor isn’t your thing, you may want to stop reading right now. But I will say I found this article, “Why Are Kids So Obsessed with Poop Jokes?” by Jenny Marder enlightening and reassuring. You might too!
Audrey (thirteen), the leader of the pack of grandkids, got the ball rolling with her selection: Walter the Farting Dog, written by William Kotzwinkle and Glenn Murray, illustrated by Audrey Colman. And lo and behold, there were several in the group ready and waiting with fart machines to add sound effects. Guess they had inklings about the direction this book party might go!
After Audrey read a few pages of this hilarious story about a gassy dog turned family hero and held up some of the equally silly illustrations, Priya (four) was bursting to share her choice. Grumpy Monkey, written by Suzanne Lang and illustrated by Max Lang, is a book I discussed in a previous Raising Star Readers article, and I’m happy to report it has remained a favorite of Priya’s ever since. She opened to the page where Jim Panzee, a cranky monkey, has been dancing with a porcupine and ended up, in her words, “with stickers in his booty.” Priya could hardly get the words out she was laughing so hard. Which, of course, made everyone else laugh.
Then Priya showed the group her little brother’s favorite book, I Stink, written by Kate McMullan and illustrated by Jim McMullan. She zeroed in on the pages depicting alphabetical items the garbage truck has “eaten,” gleefully pointing out “puppy poo” and “ugly underpants.” This brought Nikhil (two) running to join in the laughter. He thought wearing his mom’s glasses was very funny as were the words “ugly underpants.” He wasn’t alone! And I’m sure he would like me to mention he is also fond of the page where the garbage truck burps.
Next up was Abe (eight), who had his own set of glasses for his presentation. Abe is a big fan of riddles, and he chose one from his Ranger Rick magazine: Why do pirates go camping? Because they like to get out and enjoy the fresh arhrrrrr!
(Did you know that Ranger Rick, published by the National Wildlife Federation to “promote outdoor activity and instill passion for nature,” is more than fifty years old? I’d say Ranger Rick has also done a stellar job of encouraging reading!)
Abe’s second contribution was a page from The Day the Crayons Quit, written by Drew Daywalt and illustrated by Oliver Jeffers. In this entertaining book, unhappy crayons voice their complaints by writing letters to the child who uses them. The red crayon, for example, is worn out from overuse — it works harder than any other color in the box and even has to work overtime on holidays like Christmas and Valentine’s Day.
Abe’s sister, Claire (twelve), introduced a fun fact from Weird But True! 8: 300 Outrageous Facts, a National Geographic Kids book. It seems Harvard University has collected toenail clippings from more than 100,000 people for studies on the causes of certain diseases.
After a round of “eeuuwwws” and a note to self to google that fact for more info, we moved on to the gentle humor found in a chapter from Frog and Toad Together, written and illustrated by Arnold Lobel. The chapter titled “The Dream” was read by Wyatt (ten) with help from Cooper (who only gets gas when he eats too many plums from the trees in his yard).
When Wyatt moved into a new house this past summer, I helped him and his two siblings decide which of their books to keep and which to donate to the library sale. My heart was filled with joy as all three agonized over which books to part with. They even pulled “give-away” books off each other’s piles and put them on their own “save” piles. In the end, the pile of books to actually give away was small, and there was no doubt that Frog and Toad Together would make the trip to the new home like a treasured friend.
The final book shared was from Lauren Tarshis’s popular I Survived series. Tate (eight) apparently didn’t get the “silly picture book” memo … but his choice of I Survived the Attack of the Grizzlies, 1967, which is a thrilling and terrifying fictionalized account of a bear event in Glacier National Park, sparked a discussion among the cousins about future book-swapping of I Survived titles.
Every book the kids chose for our Zoom session was or currently is a bestseller. I’m sure many of you know these books well. These are books that have delighted and amused thousands and thousands of kids. As has been said, “Reading gives us someplace to go when we have to stay where we are.” And you can certainly add the word “FUN” after someplace …
Who knows when we can all be together again to share giggles and belly laughs in person, but like fanciful Delowlah Lu, I left our silly book share-a-thon with pockets full of smiles, and a heart light enough to fly. I think my Extended Reading Team felt the same way.
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.