So, 2012 is now rolling and it’s time to wrap up our Reading the World Challenge for 2011…
So did we complete it – yes, by the skin of our teeth! Older Brother spent a couple of hours on Saturday finishing off Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (The Young Reader’s Edition adapted by Sarah Thomson, Puffin Books, 2009). It was clear that it had a profound effect on him by the way, all the way through reading it, he would tell us about different parts of the book at mealtimes; and he was much struck by the interview with Mortenson’s daughter Amira and her involvement in the project.
The other two books he read to complete the Challenge were Secret Heart by David Almond; and Bird by Zetta Elliott, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (Lee & Low Books, 2008). He was moved by both of them. Secret Heart was ultimately uplifting but Bird made him “really sad”. When I asked what it made him think about drugs, he said, “I don’t know how to explain or describe it, but NO!” A fairly incoherent but nevertheless eloquent response.
Younger Brother combined his local and non-fiction criteria into one book, The Dinosaur Coast by Roger Osborne and Alistair Bowden, and published by the North York Moors National Park Authority (2000). For his poetry book, we have read together Where the Steps Were by Andrea Cheng (Wordsong, 2008). I have blogged about this wonderful book before – suffice to say here that Little Brother was captivated. In general, he is very much drawn to the conciseness of poetry, and he became very caught up in the narrative here – the blend of history, the relevance of that history to the children, and the children’s individual concerns. He managed to keep tabs on each child’s voice much better than I did!
Our last two books for reading all together were Children of the World by Anthony Asael and Stéphanie Rabemiafara (Art in All of Us / Universe Publishing, 2011) and the third of Susanne Gervay’s Jack Books, Always Jack (HarperCollins Australia, 2010).
We have so enjoyed dipping into Children of the World, which was PaperTigers’ Book of the Month in November. We have looked up countries at random, picked countries out of the air, looked through for places we’ve never heard of – and in all cases, the boys have found the pictures and poetry written mostly by children around their age to be inspirational. We’ve also had some interesting discussions about making generalisations, particularly arising from the last two of the three sentences under the title banner – “We eat…”, and “We play…”, and particularly with reference to the UK pages!
Always Jack was another great read. We loved the previous two books in the series, especially I Am Jack, so our expectations were high and we were not disappointed. Jack himself is, as ever, a well-rounded blend of confidence and insecurity, determined to get the last word with one of his (usually) funny jokes. Several highly charged themes run through the book, including cancer (Jack’s mother), dementia (his Nan), and the Vietnam War (through Jack and his best friend Christopher’s joint school project into their family histories). The book made us laugh; it made us sad (and me cry); and it made us think. Both my boys empathised with Jack every step of the way and were delighted when his Mum’s wedding to Rob went ahead – not only because it meant she had won that particular battle against cancer, but also becasue it signified an end to all that mum, sister and best-friend Anna stuff of taking months to decide what to wear etc! Always Jack is an enjoyable, easy read and the book will be a very useful tool to give to children who may be going through similar experiences in their families. It also highlights the importance of keeping the channels of communication open, in the case of illness in a family, or indeed of creating those channels between generations in the first place. In Always Jack, Christopher’s parents had never before spoken to him about their journey from Vietnam for a new home in Australia; for his mother especially it had been too traumatic. Jack himself did not know the story behind his grandfather’s medals. By entrusting these stories to the younger generation, family ties were tightened and wounds had a chance to heal. So yes, Susanne has done it again. All three of us wholeheartedly recommend Always Jack and just wish there could be more.
And what about other participants in the Challenge? Sandhya over at My Handful of the Sky has completed it, both on her own account and with her daughter. You can follow links to her posts on all the books they read in her round-up post here – definitely worth delving into.
If you took part in the Challenge, do let us know how you got on, if you haven’t already – and look out for the post (imminent) for the PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge 2012.