Literary Pairings: Half-Baked Idea? Or BRILLIANT New Concept? You Be the Judge

First, let it be known that I am tired. As in, really really tired and not entirely confident that I am making sense. Nonetheless, I will boldly forge ahead with what seemed like a really good idea last week. See, I was reading this:


Later on, I will give you the full benefit of all my reactions to this book, but when I had my BIG IDEA, the main thing I noticed was (get ready to be wowed): This lady sure knows how to write about food. I know, I know: duh. But! It brought to mind this fine literary specimen, which I have read out loud, oh, maybe a few hundred times.

If you haven't had the pleasure, it's about a mouse who becomes a cheese taster, and saves one of France's cheesemakers by posting helpful signs on the cheeses, so he can be a useful mouse. Our favorite? "Needs more orange peel." We read it to the small ones with great success from the ages of about 3 to maybe 7.

Here is my thinking: in all likelihood, if you are reading this blog, you are a grown up. And there is probably a gulf between what you are reading, and what your kid is reading (or having you read to him or her, night after night). And I thought, what if there were pairings? As in, wine pairings, but with books? I mean, when I was reading Wolf Hall, and Chestnut was reading Beware, Princess Elizabeth, that was a pairing, and it was awesome. And my half-baked idea is that there must be millions—billions!—of pairings, in which you get to read something that feeds your soul, while your kid gets to read something that feeds his or her soul, and then together you can talk about this and it will be awesome.

That said, I am conflicted about Tender at the Bone. I really enjoyed reading it, but I left feeling uneasy. I don't know if it was about her openly expressed anger at her mother, or if it was just my craven envy of her ability to open herself to adventure of all kinds, when I am feeling so very far from right now. But I did enjoy it. And truly, if you read your kid Anatole, and you read Tender at the Bone, then buy yourselves a wheel of really nice brie, I promise you the conversation will flow.

Are there any pairings that come to mind for you? Put them (or fine cheese recommendations) in the comments.

6 thoughts on “Literary Pairings: Half-Baked Idea? Or BRILLIANT New Concept? You Be the Judge

  1. Oooo…that is clever! I thought of the adult reading Wicked and the kid reading the original Wizard of Oz (or the surprisingly good graphic novel adaptation by Eric Shanower) so it`s actually set in the same universe. That would be cool.
    Actually, I just finished reading a strange book called “It’s Superman” by Tom De Haven. I picked it up completely at random from the library and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It portrays Superman in a nuanced way (ie weaknesses beyond kryptonite!) and had an interesting take on American society in the 1930s. So if your kid was reading Superman comics, and you were reading that, it would be kind of cool.
    Ooo ooo… or even more down that line, what about authors who write for both markets. Like if you were reading Terry Pratchett’s adult discworld novels and your kid was reading some of the YA ones!
    Or if you were reading Walden and your kid was reading the Diamond in the Window!
    Really though, we all know the futility of getting kids to read something we want them to read. It’s probably best to look at what they are actually reading and try to find something to match. We can dream all we want about cozy evenings discussing transcendentalism, but in all likelihood the child would be going through an “I only read books about horses/pirates/ninjas/whatever” phase just when you wanted them to read it!


  2. This one’s a little tricky because most adults don’t read Plato for fun, but The Republic andThe Giver or the ones who walk away from omelas and the giver.
    Chocolat and Charlie and the chocolate factory


  3. Love this idea! Keep going!!!
    And I loved this book by Reichl. Picked up a copy laying out at a beach house we were renting, had to leave it, went out and bought my own copy and devoured the rest of it. (It also made me promptly read the rest of her books.)
    If you think she writes well in novel form you should follow her on Twitter. She rocks the 140.


  4. I often find books about the same topics at 3 levels (preschool, 3rd grade, adult) and we all read on our own but about the same topic. It makes it for good discussions. Recently topics have been Jane Goodall (biographies are often available at many reading levels) and the Underground Railroad used by escaping slaves.


  5. Interesting idea. We just finished Summerland as a readaloud with our 7 & 9 year olds and I noticed The Art of Fielding lying on the bedside table unread and wondered whether it would have been a good companion book.


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