Mary Rose is still hopelessly in World War II like she was last month; perhaps she will do another post on her recent reads if she can be pried away from her artwork and novel planning.
Me - Last week I finally finished reading Middlemarch ! which seemed to take me a very long time but was so wonderfully worth the length. My vintage paperback is over 600 pages (although an extra copy I lent to a friend has a whopping 880) so definitely some time commitment to get through this tome. It is subtitled A Study of Provincial Life and regarded as George Eliot's masterpiece and one of the best English novels. But oh what a book! I recall somewhere during the last ninety pages or so sitting reading here in the kitchen while stirring pudding or something and just moaning out This is so good I can't bear it! or some such thing, startling the folks around me and causing them to gaze at me like I'd gone off my rocker, er, kitchen stool. There's a grand scope of characters of all sorts and Eliot unfolds their various personalities with such insightful skill and the numerous plots all mesh together so curiously. I was repeatedly amazed as I read at her skill in portraying character, the good and the bad and the noble and the lowly, all the little acts and thoughts, inward and outward, sometimes contradictory, that make up mankind. 'Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.' Sigh. Good book.
So now I've moved on to quite different fare. Mary Rose convinced me to read Enemy Brothers, as I was quite ready for a quick read next and this book has long been a favorite of my children. Set in World War II and actually written contemporaneously, I'm not far in but I can see already why Mary Rose is so fond of Dym who exemplifies that most wonderful combination of kindness and wisdom, and she couldn't help but to keep drawing this beloved character again and again. It is always great fun and so satisfying to read a book that my children have all read and loved so many times for so many years, and to finally 'get' all their little references. And I get to make everyone laugh just by saying little things like Here is the eight o'clock news and this is Alvar Liddell reading it or offering them mustard sandwiches without any ham.
As for read alouds, we finished up and totally enjoyed The Wind in the Willows - such a great book to read aloud! Just that tidbit above, so jolly fun to let slip emphatically off the tongue! And we happily recently snagged both an Ernest Sheperd illustrated edition and a Michael Hague, a longtime favorite here, at recent book sales. It has inspired some wonderful illustrations from Kateri as well and she's even made bookmarks she wants to sell in the Etsy shop. :-)
I'm reading Charlotte's Web now as I had planned and it's just so much wonderfulness to read this fabulous book out loud. Kateri has never read it before, so I get to delight in every nuance of surprise and wonder and laughter and fear that crosses over her little face or wanders into her big brown eyes. I got a little carried away yelling 'I don't want to die! Save me, somebody! Save me!' with almost too much zeal for Eliza's comfort - I'm told I was heard upstairs through the ceiling, but pigs are supposed to be loud, no? Kateri tromps around the house repeating that most perfect of opening lines, Where's Papa going with that ax? while alternatively trying to talk like the geese. Probably-abably-abably one of the best children's books ever. Make that Certainly-ertainly-ertainly.
With the big girls I'm reading Great Expectations, as they haven't ventured into any Dickens on their own besides Oliver Twist, Josiah being our most well-read consumer of Dickens. It's funny how there are books that everyone reads and enjoys and then there are books that tend to stay associated with one family member and vaguely avoided by others. I must say the looks on their faces as they meet Miss Havisham, though naturally far more subtle are almost as priceless as Kateri's meeting Fern and Avery and friends.
Which brings me to a few words on reading aloud that I keep meaning to mention. When giving our children books to read it is only natural that we want to give them all the best goods we can get our eager hands on, and sometimes as quickly as possible. But it's good to keep in mind that you might want to tuck away certain little gems to save for reading aloud, withholding them if you will, until the time is right for you to read them aloud to your children. Sitting and sharing a book together, when all the family members are hearing it for the first time, diving into the story, getting to know the characters, all together is truly a unique and wonderful experience. And while sharing a common literacy with your family members is of course fabulous even when you read independently, there's something extra special about sharing a new book together at the same time that makes for an experience and memories like no other.
We'll all always remember that first year when Jonathan went off to college, I read through all of the Anne of Green Gables books aloud at teatime. I think some of them had read the first one, but not the rest of the series, and we met and grew up with Anne and Diana and read on all the way through Rilla and Walter, together. That was a good year. Though the girls had read other Alcott I 'saved' Little Women until both guys were in college, and we faced our first fall without any brothers at tea sitting around the fireside with Jo, Beth, Meg and Amy and delighted in the company. So much Shakespeare we enjoyed together that Shakespeare summer. The Lent I read them all The Hiding Place for the first time. The boys still remember their father taking them through the Wardrobe for the first time so many years ago. Kateri certainly could have devoured Wilbur and Charlotte on her own in an afternoon and enjoyed it much, but she's having a totally different experience with it, hearing a bit each day, waiting in suspense, having the drama portrayed outside of her own imagination as her mother squeals like a pig. As the children get older it can be challenging to find books that are appropriate for all ages that no one has read before, and you certainly can't plan out a lifetime of reading ahead of time, but just keep in mind you might want to keep a few literary jewels for everyone to enjoy together as fresh and new.