We just finished reading Jeanne Birdsall's The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits, and a Very Interesting Boy as our Morning Read Aloud (a writer after my own obsession with capital letters). It took us approximately 9 days to read, weekends excepted. And that wasn't because it's not very long, although compared to a Harry Potter or a Sea of Trolls book I suppose it isn't; no, we read it so fast because we all liked it so much.
This book sat on our shelves all year long. Some well-meaning relative gave it to us last summer, and after a quick glance at the subtitle I thought "Hmm, this might be one for FDPG's shelves, what with all those sisters and stuff." I couldn't see Max sitting in on this one very cheerfully. He'd loved the Little House books, but they had homesteading stories in them, and stories about bears and honey and guns and axes. He flagged a little when Laura went on about her trousseau at the end there, but he'd been sad to finish the series. The Penderwicks looked distinctly girlish. So it sat there and sat there, all through the Harry Potter marathon, all through some new Diana Wynne Jones, all through Half Magic, all through The Mysterious Benedict Society, and more. I'd pull it out now and then, study the cover, then reshelve it. Another time, I always thought.
Anyhow, a week or so ago I finally hauled it out and thought "It's now or never!" And the next morning, at breakfast, I brought it out and said "This is our next read!" I might have been imagining it, but I think caught a quick cringe. A scowl for certain. There might even have been some eye-rolling. But this is where my patented Jane Austen Homeschooling Heroine skills helped me out, because instead of quailing before the sullen glare that only a boy-on-the-verge-of-being-forced-to-listen-to-a-story-about-many-girls can muster, I opened the book and began reading, not in a hurried, nervous, oh-please-don't-start-twitching-and-sighing tone (which is sometimes my Backup Voice if the story, err, flags), but in a calm, measured, this-is-going-to-be-amazing voice.
You're all with me on the hyphens, I hope?
Well, let's just say that Max was willing to go along with it all in an effort to cultivate his inner Good Sport, so I read quite unchallenged for a page or two, with the twins listening most raptly, but when we hit the line "'We'll discover that when I'm in the backseat for too long with my younger sisters, I go insane and murder them,' said Skye" he perked right up. This wasn't just a story about four sisters, it was about four sisters who sometimes squabble. And argue. And call each other the odd rude name. And do silly things. And play funny games that involve rubber-tipped arrows and targets with the faces of Interfering Adults painted on them. And one of them was often quite disagreeable. These weren't Perfect Little Girls by any stretch of the imagination.
This was a story Max could really relate to.
It was even funny. I counted at least 15 occasions when the kids all burst out laughing. And each morning, when I'd haul the book from the bookshelf next to the dining room table, FDPG would sigh happily, readying herself for more delightful vignettes about all those girls. She loved that book. She loved hearing stories about groups of smart, clever, witty girls getting into mischief and helping the boys get out of trouble. Gosh, put that way, who wouldn't?
Dominic liked hearing about Jeffrey, the son of the Rich But Sadly Slightly Nasty Landlady, and what an amazing house he lived in, filled as it was with walk-about attics and trees next to windows to climb out of and cooks named Churchie who made gingerbread for lunch and ponds filled with goldfish and tunnels through hedges and and and...
And best of all, Max sat through it all, without the slightest scowl or frown or sigh. Not even a harrumph. And when we finished the story, he leaned back and said "That was way better than I thought it would be!"
So there you go, you just never know what you're going to get into with some of these stories. And sometimes it's way better than you think. Lucky for me...
Other reading aloud posts can be found here:
What We Learned From Laura Ingalls Wilder, J.K.Rowling, and Diana Wynne Jones
Reflections on reading a Little House Book
FDPG's Latest Read
Reading Harry Potter
The Water Horse