Umberto has finally reached a point where not only will he sit still for a chapter book read to him but he enjoys it. So far this year we've read The Little Prince and Witches by Roald Dahl. The former was a bit much for him, and I think at times he was bored, but he listened. He curled up beside me and listened. At the end, when I was crying (as I always do during that book) he looked up at me.
"Why are you crying?" he asked.
"Because the Little Prince has died." I answered.
"Umm...no he hasn't. He's going back to his planet. He's just pretending to die so that he can get up there."
And really that is the point of the book isn't it? That adults just don't get it and children do. Umberto got it in ways that I couldn't. I found this to be a poignant reminder that I shouldn't underestimate what my children "get." Sometimes they see things different from they way I do but it doesn't mean that difference is somehow less sophisticated or wrong. It's just different.
Witches was just a good time. I love Dahl's books so much. These I came to as an adult. I had never read him until my mom began to read him in her second grade class rooms. Her children were always a tad horrified at his complete irreverence towards adults. He is delightfully naughty, and Witches was no exception. Umberto ADORED this book, and begged me to read it to him all the time. He was a tad confused as we use the word witch to refer to mama sometimes (in a good way of course) so I had to sort go through this whole thing about good witches vs. bad witches. I felt vaguely uncomfortable with this distinction but I know he'd just unfocus if I were to make it more complicated than that. But we will definitely be getting more Dahl books out. What's funny is that Umberto was not at all horrified in the ways my mom's students were. He loved the irreverence towards adults. I wonder if it's homeschooling or if it's just that parents are nuts, and really into self-mockery?
But the books I was most excited about where the "Little House" books. These were books I LOVED as a child, and reread often. Of course I watched the TV series but really I loved the books the most. They lead to wonderful games of covered wagons, log cabins, and other adventures. I remember how my cousins, friends, and I would pretend to go on the journey West. We'd cross the field behind my grandmother's house, and then end up on the woods. There was a tiny clearing bordered by four or five great pines. We would make that our cabin. It was great fun. So when the kids were all excited over a PBS show about log cabins, I suggested the books.
We started Little House in the Big Woods last night. It was very sentimental for me. I actually remembered the pictures and felt this rush of nostalgia as I looked at them. Then I started reading. The first chapter is basically about storing food for the winter....which involves a lot of animal killing. We're vegetarians. We're vegetarians because we don't want to kill or eat animals. Umberto was a full part of this decision. Each page kept worst and worst. First there were the dead deers in the trees accompanied with a description of the skinning, gutting, and carving up of the meat. Horacio's groaning at this point. Umberto is just looking at me, suspicious, a tad confused but finally says "This is deer that were once a live right?" "Umm yeah." "Gross." And it on it goes, until we get to "Butchering Time" which is when they kill the pig. At this point, Horacio is laughing just from the sheer horror of it. Umberto is totally upset about the poor "pig." And we are all begin treated to a graphic description of the pig's death, carving up of the carcass, etc. And then I read "He was blowing up the bladder. It made a little white balloon, and he tied the end tight with a string, and gave it to Mary and Laura to play with"(15). Horacio just lost it, Umberto's looking at me with his huge eyes asking "That's what they played with?" For me the worst part was how Ma made head cheese. Argh. I said to Horacio "Maybe this wasn't the best book for a vegetarian child." We talked to Umberto about how it was likely they didn't really have a choice because of hard the winter's were, etc. And then I told Horacio that it wasn't quite as romantic as I had remembered.
Memories are funny like that. I honestly did not remember that part of the story from when i was a child. And I would have been horrified as my dad slaughtered a pig on his farm when I was six. I was horribly upset as I loved the pig and saw him as a pet not as food. But when I used to think back on the book, I remember how the family relied on each other, Pa and his fiddle, Ma's hard work to make a home. I never remembered all the death.