It’s the first Monday of Fall — good morning!
M is officially enrolled (and already three hours in) at her new K-Prep school. New school, new routine and new schedule (for all of us). Given the season we’re now in, change is good. What better time to become re-committed to this site, especially now that I think I’ve found a way to keep a happy medium between blogging and maintaining M’s privacy as she grows older. As I mentioned in this post, I’m nervous about the terrain of writing about raising a now five year old daughter while holding tighter to her right to a private life, but some subjects just seem to lend themselves to group discussion in a public sphere…like books!
I’ve reviewed books on here before, and honestly, I could make that a blog in and of itself given how much we all like to read around our house. But I’ve been slacking off, not on the reading, but on the reviewing. Part of that was because we’re now in this new wonderful (and, at times, weird) territory that includes a pre-reader who likes longer stories, but still wants illustrations too. Not quite picture books, not quite chapter books. We have had several misses this summer amidst an occasional hit or two.
Considering where we are at in the reading spectrum, I asked my trusted and seasoned parent friends on Facebook and got some great recommendations–though after reading some of them, they seemed to be a year too early, if only because of the lack of illustrations for most of the titles rather than the quality of the stories. Except for a very small sampling of the Rainbow Magic series, they really weren’t holding her attention–I think we just need to come back to those in a year or two.
But I seem to have really hit the nail on the head last weekend after visiting The Children’s Book Shop in Brookline Village, Massachusetts. If you live within an hour of this book store and have not been, stop right here and go. I mean it — go there. Right now. I’ll wait. It’s small, but I assure you, it does not disappoint.
It’s accessible by T (Green Line) but parking is no problem either on a Sunday afternoon (we went before a show we were catching at the Puppet Showplace Theatre around the corner). The staff there is completely wonderful, knowledgeable and, if I didn’t know better, in cohoots with my credit card company to get me to spend more because of all the truly amazing and spot on recommendations they had.
The salesperson who helped us that day was a wonderful man who happens to also be a children’s librarian during the week and has two daughters of his own. My basic parameters for him were: books that are closer to chapter books but still with lots of illustration and longer stories than picture books. I also told him I was trying to add more stories to her sphere that did not necessarily include having to deal with younger siblings, as many books for this age group seem to, if only because it was not a dynamic she would be experiencing personally. I mentioned that she liked ballet and cats too, but any subject was fine. I got so many great, great recommendations from him, and had we not had to skedaddle out for the show, I would have been able to sift through so much more. I have many to talk about in the coming posts.
But today I’m starting with Mercy Watson To The Rescue, written by Kate DiCamillo (whom also wrote The Tales of Despereaux) and illustrated by Chris Van Dusen. There is a whole website dedicate to the Mercy Watson series–there are six books so far.
Mercy Watson is a pig–a “porcine wonder”–that lives with a couple. She loves buttered toast. It is her love of buttered toast that leads her on some crazy adventures, including in this first book that we read together with many laughs.
The storyline in Mercy Watson To The Rescue, the first in the series, is zany, implausible and obviously one that lends itself to the five year old set, boy or girl. The level and length of dialogue, that sometimes includes up to four or five speakers, is well beyond that which we’ve read in the picture books that we seem to be growing out of. At several points in the story there is a feeling of “what will happen next?!”–a hallmark of good storytellng–whether it be a bed possibly crashing through the ceiling or dealing with a crotchedy neighbor who clearly does not like pigs in the house. And did I mention the fire department shows up?
The book is 68 pages and broken down into twelve chapters of around 4 or 5 pages each, including illustrations, so it can be read all at once in about 10 minutes, or a couple chapters at a time if you only have a few minutes. But with its smaller size and thick paper, it even feels like a book meant for an older pre-reader or early reader, which seems enticing to M at this age. I have not seen them at our local library, but maybe you will be lucky and find them at yours. Either way, I think this is the kind of book and series that is well-deserving of a permanent spot on the home book shelf, and at $5.99 retail (or used at around $3.98, like online at www.betterworldbooks.com) it would hardly break the bank. We are eagerly looking forward to reading the next books in the series!
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.
Come back next Monday when I will review the first book in the Nate the Great series (by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat).