Gift Guide 2016 (No. 5): For the Girl with Gumption

December 15, 2016 § 2 Comments

"Gertie's Leap to Greatness" by Kate BeasleyPerhaps the most hopeful thing I’ve read on the Internet lately is BookRiot’s series of interviews with middle-grade authors regarding a renewed commitment—in response to the misogynistic rhetoric that seemed to win out in this past election—to writing strong female protagonists, of giving our daughters literary role models of persistence, resilience, compassion, and action. The future can only be bright if our girls see themselves as integral to every part of it. Or, in the more poetic words of Lindsay Egan, author of Hour of Bees (on my list to read):

“We writers are implored to write characters with goals, characters who want things, characters who act to move forward. But in light of the current political climate, I feel it’s a real imperative now for me to write female characters who do things. Girls who speak up, girls who defend others, girls who make mistakes and ask for forgiveness, girls who dream and think and work for the world they wish they had. Girls who don’t accept hate or unfairness and fight to make things better. Girls who sacrifice their own comforts for the safety of others. Girls who know that showing kindness is never weakness. Girls who DO things. The future is coming, and I want the girls of the future to remember that change is in their hands.”

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Chapter-a-Night Adventure

May 4, 2012 § 2 Comments

How do chewing gum, hair ribbons, and six magnifying glasses help a little boy rescue an enslaved baby dragon on a wild island of ferocious talking animals? There are few early chapter books written with as much wit, cleverness, and heart as Ruth Stiles Gannett’s beloved trilogy, first published over 60 years ago: My Father’s Dragon, Elmer and the Dragon, & The Dragons of Blueland (Ages 4-9). With short digestible chapters, about 200 words per page, and enchanting black-and-white sketches peppered throughout, they are perfect for reading aloud.

JP and I started these books on a recent train ride to New York and finished them a few days later, only to start them over again. At the heart of the stories is the relationship between Elmer and his dragon, an evolving friendship that brings out the best in both parties. But the real draw for kids is the adventure (no shortage of “close-calls”) and the magic (who doesn’t love thinking about riding on the back of a flying dragon?).

We’re Map Obsessed in our house, and printed inside the front and back covers of the trilogy are child-friendly maps that allow you to trace Elmer’s voyage across the Island of Tangerina, Popsicornia, Wild Island, Spiky Mountain Range, and Nevergreen City. Seriously, why don’t more chapter books have maps like this? They lend a visual cohesion to the story, plus they give the (not yet reading) child something that they can grasp independently of the adult. You know an author really “gets” it when your four and a half year old is biking to school shouting out, “Now we’re entering Popsicornia! Look out for the Awful Desert!” For a few weeks there, we were even arriving at school early.

Other Favorite Read-Aloud Chapter Books for Your Adventure Seeker:
The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Ages 5-10), by Beverly Cleary
The Cricket in Times Square (Ages 5-10), by George Selden
James and the Giant Peach (Ages 5-10), by Roald Dahl

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