When you are a parent and faced with the reality that your children are doing things like running for student government, logging into their own gmail accounts,and you know…growing up, there suddenly seems to be an emotional land mine buried in every nook of the house. Phoebe’s purple velvet first birthday dress — the one Andy bought for her at Saks in 2003 — hung in the closet for five years longer than she could squeeze a toe into it because I couldn’t bear to stash it in some basement box that probably won’t be opened until Phoebe herself is a mom. The thought of tossing Abby’s “portfolio” of artwork from preschool — even though I haven’t opened it once in three years to admire the work — fills me with dread. And the books! Don’t get me started on the books. If they weren’t threatening to take over the living space in our house, Moo Moo Brown Cow would still be on our TV room coffee table and I would still be telling anyone who would listen: This is the book we were reading when Phoebe said her first word!
No, I can’t ignore the books. The only thing I can do to make myself feel better about getting rid of them is give them to my brother, whose son is only 4, and who still has thirteen glorious Lemony Snicket books to look forward to reading. (Where is the justice in life?) “It’s like your birthday!” my brother says to my nephew every time we do the hand-off. Nathan will grab How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnight, and I will go into lock-down mode. If Auntie Jenny allows herself to remember reading that one to Abby, Auntie Jenny just might lose it.
So “Fave Five,” a new series on DALS, is, in part, my selfish attempt to hold on to my daughters’ childhoods — sorry, I mean my daughters’ childhood books that have meant something to our family long after they are no longer in the reading rotation. The series will also give us a chance to write about whatever books happen to making the house happy but don’t seem to fit into one of Andy’s or Phoebe’s epic round-ups. (Expect a lot more of those, too.) The books we choose could be old favorites, they could be new favorites — hell, we might even throw in a game or toy or video or two. Put it this way: If I get that twisty, dark pit in my stomach when I think about handing it off to my nephew, you’ll probably be reading about it here.
And don’t worry, you won’t have to read my sob stories every time you check in. Just click the little button on the right column (right near the Categories list) and it will immediately take you to the latest picks. They will be changing regularly, so check back often.
“Fave Five” logo designed by Robin Helman. Thanks Robin!
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Five Books We Love Right Now
An evolving list
Last Updated: 8/5/12
Click here more details on Fave Five.
Chew on This, by Eric Schlosser Back in my magazine editing days, I used to work on a column called “What the Writers are Reading,” and we were lucky enough to feature Michael Pollan in one of them. One of the books he recommended for kids was Chew on This, which is Eric Schlosser’s children’s version of Fast Food Nation. It’s been shortened a bit and the tone is a little more kid-friendly, but the effect is the same as it is for adults: When 9-year-old Phoebe found it in my shelf and devoured it, she said she would never walk in to McDonald’s — or eat any fast food — ever again. If I was a better mom, I might have waited for her to turn 12 (which is the recommended age) before handing it to her — there is a story about a six-year-old who dies from E.Coli and graphic description of animal cruelty that upset her briefly. But only briefly. She’s read it three times since.
Deadweather and Sunrise, by Geoff Rodkey. For the kid who likes pirates and adventures. It reads like a movie, filled with non-stop action and adventure. It’s kind of complicated but it’s about a 13-year-old who lives on a land with lots of pirates then escapes to a beautiful fantasy land called Sunrise where his family disappears and then he finds out someone’s trying to kill him. If you liked Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom, you’ll probably really like this. Ages 10-13 -Guest Review by 10-year-old Phoebe
Bread and Jam for Frances, by Russell Hoban I would of course recommend any book in the Frances series to young readers (especially those who are just growing out of shorter picture books) but this one seems especially right for the DALS reader. Frances, the beloved, beleaguered badger refuses to eat her mother’s eggs, spaghetti and meatballs, or anything that’s not bread and jam. So that’s what her mom decides to serve her day after day, meal after meal. In addition to teaching a lesson to picky eaters, it contains a back-and-forth between Frances’s parents that warms my heart every time I read it: Father: “If there is one thing I am fond of for breakfast, it is a soft-boiled egg!” Mother “Yes, it is just the right thing to start the day off right!” Ages 3-5
The Van Gogh Cafe, by Cynthia Rylant. My 8-year-old Abby declared this her favorite book yesterday. (Well, if I’m going to be technical about it, she said it was actually tied for first with The Mouse of Amherst). I haven’t read the book but the way Abby tells it, Van Gogh Cafe is about all the magical things that happen in a restaurant in a small town called Flowers, Kansas. “But the thing is,” she told me, “nothing really happens. It’s just so beautiful. Each chapter is a new story about something really interesting like seagulls.” She would also like to point out that Cynthia Rylant (don’t make the mistake of calling her Cynthia Rowley, as I have) is a Newbery Medal winner. Ages 8 and up. (Same age range for Amherst.)
The Midnight Fox, by Betsy Byars. Gretchen was the one who recommended this as part of her kid lit program and I am embarrassed to say that before then I had never heard of Betsy Byars (even her more well-known Newbery-winning Summer of the Swans). We intend to change that over the next few months, because this was the kind of chapter book that is so tight and so simply written, you finish it and say “I could write a book like that.” (Of course, by now we know there is a converse relationship between how effortless a book reads and how hard the book was to write.) This beautiful chapter book is told from the point-of-view of Tom, a 10- or 11-year-old whose parents send him against his will to spend the summer at his aunt’s and uncle’s farm while they travel to Europe. Tom, whose idea of fun is building model airplanes and spying on hornet’s nests at his best friend Petie’s house, is not happy about the set-up until, on a lonely exploratory walk through the woods, spies a black fox. He spends his summer observing and eventually protecting the fox and in the process learns a little something about himself and life, including this little gem: That sometimes your parents are right. Ages 8-10.
“Fave Five” logo by Robin Helman.
Publishers interested in submitting to Fave Five. Please contact Jenny AT dinneralovestory DOT com.
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