Reading the World Challenge 2009 – Book Number Four (x3!)

We are cracking on and are on target to have completed our PaperTigers Reading Challenge 2009 by the end of July, though it will be tight!

For our European readaloud, we have just finished the Swiss classic Heidi by Joanna Spyri. It has lost none of its charm over the years and we delighted in the well-rounded characters – the non-saccharine goodness of Heidi herself, Peter’s spikiness and jealousy, Grandfather’s transformation from a surly recluse, even the goats! This is not a book that either of the boys would have picked up on their own to read and is just another example of the breadth of literature that children are happy to absorb when it is read aloud to them. For an interesting take on Heidi, see this post from Hungry For (mostly Japanese) Words.

Little Brother (8) has also journeyed into Europe but a little further East, with Sheep Don’t Go to School, a collection of children’s poetry from Eastern Europe, edited by Andrew Fusek Peters and illustrated by Mark√©ta Prachatick√° (Bloodaxe Books, 1999). He spent a month dipping in and out of this book – and one rather gruesome poem we read aloud together with great relish! Here’s what he has to say:

Some of the poems are funny, some are plain weird, and some are to carry on and on until you’re bored, like:

A doggy stole a sausage from the big bad butcher […]
And on the doggy’s gravestone they wrote this little tale:
A doggy stole a sausage…etc etc! ad infinitum!

I’ve recited that one over and over and now my family is begging me to stop!

Too right!!! Yes, he’s definitely got a lot of enjoyment and glee out of that book!

Older Brother (10), in the meantime, headed to the other side of the world and plunged into the Amazonian rainforest with The Shaman’s Apprentice by Lynne Cherry (also the illustrator) and Mark J. Plotkin (Voyager Books, Harcourt, 2001). This is a visually stunning book which brings the rainforest to life. It centres on the people of Kwamala in Suriname and the importance of the plants around them not only for their own medicine, but for modern medical research. It is a wake-up call for the conservation of the Amazon. Lynne’s illustrated list of plants and their medicinal properties is superb. A few words from Older Brother:

It’s about a Tirio Indian boy called Kamanya who followed the Shaman, who is the village medicine man, in the Amazon after he had been healed from a deadly fever. He learned how to make the medicines by using leaves, herbs and bark and always believed in the medicine man’s importance.

The pictures are very colourful and they show real people and their emotions. I would recommend this book because it shows what life is like for indigenous people who live in the Amazon rainforest and it is a very caring story.

Have you read any of these books? Have you nearly completed your PaperTigers Reading the World Challenge? Do let us know.

6 Responses to “Reading the World Challenge 2009 – Book Number Four (x3!)”

  1. Sally Says:

    Oh, I’d love to get my hands on Sheep Don’t Go to School! Another great poetry book from Bloodaxe Books, no doubt.

  2. Marjorie Says:

    It is an excellent anthology – and praise is also due to the translators since I think translating poetry must be one of the hardest things to do!

  3. Book Chook Says:

    Heidi was a book I actually owned as a child, so I read it so often, and loved it. Excellent point about reading aloud being such a great way to introduce kids to different genres, Marjorie. And the evil chicken that lives inside me also enjoyed the thought of you tormenting with a poem! I just have to start singing “This is a song that doesn’t end..” (Shari Lewis?) to drive my son out of a room.

  4. Marjorie Says:


    Yes, the copy of Heidi was my old, battered paperback. Fortunately it had a bookcover that wouldn’t have put the boys off – unlike so many of the ones that seem to be around today!

  5. Aline Says:

    Your boys’ comments about the books are always so thoughtful!… How proud you must be of them! I’m looking forward to hearing about your next literary stops!

    Anabella liked the “The Shaman’s Apprentice,” too, which she read at school, and “The Great Kapok Tree,” also about the Amazon Rainforest. Lynne Cherry’s books always do such a great job of getting kids excited about and respectful of nature. I just ordered her new book, co-authored with Gary Braasch, “How We Know What We Know About Our Changing Climate: Scientists and Kids Explore Global Warming,” and can’t wait to explore it with Anabella! I hear the book inspired a movie project as well, called “Young Voices on Climate Change.”

  6. Marjorie Says:

    I only came across Lynne Cherry recently and she has gone straight into my list of favourite illustrators – and her subject matter is fabulous. I’d love to know what Anabella thinks about this latest book.