Monday, 4 August 2008

Manners and Mischief

Jeff took Anna and Joshua to the library the other day and they came home with some unusual selections. The kids and I have loved the following two books, although they are very different:

Big Black Bear by Wong Herbert Yee. This books tells, in rhyme, the story of Little Girl and the Big Black Bear with absolutely appalling manners who knocks upon her door: "Come in please. Wipe your paws on the mat." "I'm a BIG BLACK BEAR - I don't have to do that!" If you've ever wondered how to introduce the necessity of manners in polite society with your pre-schooler, this is the book for you. The illustrations are simple yet full of expression and action. The text is rythmical and perfect for reading aloud. The first time I read it, in the car on the way home from church, Abigail begged to be given the book to look at more closely and Joshua begged me to read it all over again. Anna was very courteous in sharing her library book... and Jeff had a rather broad smile on his face.
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Another picture book which had Jeff and I in stitches was Tom by Tomie dePaola. When I read the first few pages to myself, I thought, "ho hum, nothing very interesting here" but the story got funnier and funnier until it had become absolutely hilarious. I do not shout and snort with laughter very often, but this book engendered both! Apparently based upon the author's childhood memories, this book recounts anecdotes from Tommy's weekend visits to his grandfather, Tom, after whom he was named. At first they merely disturb Nana with their loud laughter, but later in the book Tommy gets up to some real mischief when he pulls a very inventive prank on some of the girls at school, and is sent to the principal's office. This book is not for the faint-hearted nor those who do not want their kids to know yet exactly what a butcher does with chickens: "Tom would take his cleaver and WHOP - off came a head. WHOP - WHOP - off came the feet." It does give quite some detail of Tommy's hilariously mischievous prank, (which many in today's society would describe as bullying but which bears very little resemblance to the physically and emotionally traumatic events of some present-day schools), which might put this book off limits in some families. However, Tommy is punished appropriately for his actions, and he does look at least somewhat repentant when he relates the events to Tom. I wouldn't want to let my kids loose with a pair of chicken feet after reading this book to them, but I had no qualms about handing it to Jeff with a gleeful, "you've got to read this!"
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