It's We Recommend, in which we attempt to match kids up with their perfect book. Got a kid in your life who needs a recommendation? Write us at thediamondinthewindow (at) gmail (dot) com with the age, reading tastes, favorite books, and any other relevant (or irrelevant) information, and we'll give it a shot. And all the good suggestions are in the comments, so be sure to look there.
Can I tell you how wonderful it is to have an email account where you get heartfelt, thoughtful requests for great books? As opposed to, say, work emails about deadlines and missed comments and general misery? It is very wonderful.
Anyway, I think you will find today's request particularly affecting (though perhaps I am just tired and loopy?). You be the judge:
I have an 8 year old daughter who theoretically loves to read (she says she does) but in reality starts a lot of books but doesn't finish them. She ripped through the first Harry Potter, but only got halfway through the second. She started Mary Poppins but didn't get far. She has loved reading (on her own) Ivy & Bean, Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Betsy-Tacy. Together we have read The Little House books, the Penderwicks, the Ramona books, most of Roald Dahl, and lots of Judy Blume. She is happy for more challenging books if we read them together, but on her own I think she struggles a bit and gets easily discouraged. Today she said she wasn't that keen on the Harry Potter books because bad things kept happening and that she preferred books 'about love and relationships and families'. Any suggestions gratefully accepted.
Love and relationships and families? What an appealing little person this is!
This email made me think several things. One: she is not ready to read full-on complex chapter books. When we read as grown-ups, I think we lose sight of the fact that it's not just difficult words that make a book hard to read. It's convoluted sentences, or sentences that jump from one page to another, or even just the prospect of 300 more pages. And when it's too hard, it's just no fun.
I know that reading parents get impatient. They want their kid to find all the awesome books that they themselves have loved—it's hard to wait. And I think we forget, too, just how old we were when we read things. We have this fuzzy image of "When I was a kid," and don't remember (maybe) that we were in 6th grade when we read Judy Blume or Harriet the Spy or whatever it was. Or maybe we were in 3rd, but it's different for everyone, and no one's interest is served by matching a kid with a book that is too hard. And Harry Potter? It's scary. I don't think I would ever have read it when I was 8. I couldn't even stay in the room to watch Batman.
So this parent is lucky: the kid is happy to be read to. To that end, I would say read aloud! Read all of the many stories in which bad things DON'T keep happening. Read her Ballet Shoes. Read her Otherwise Known as Sheila the Great! Read her Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic! Read her All of a Kind Family, too.
But for her to read? I consulted with Chestnut, who is the absolute perfect person to talk to about a case like this. She thought about it and considered The Cobble Street Cousins. Which could be really great. But then she thought about it a little more and said, "I've got it!" And I think she does.
A kid wants to read about "love and relationships and families"? You can bet Chestnut will give her love and relationships and families. Sarah, Plain and Tall is excellent, and heartfelt, and sweet. My only worry? It might be too hard, but I don't think so. And if it is? Her mom can read it to her, and she can take the Cobble Street Cousins on her own, and curl up in her room, and read about love and relationships and families some more.
But maybe there are other great ideas? Put them, as always, in the comments.