Maeve Visser Knoth: The wrong summer reading book!

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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The wrong summer reading book!

Much to my surprise, I learned yesterday that we have been busily reading aloud the wrong book for my son's summer reading requirement. The silly thing is that I had a hand in choosing the book that the incoming 5th and 6th graders of the San Carlos Charter Learning Center are all required to read. I had it in my head that they were to read Richard Peck's A Long Way From Chicago.

Two weeks ago I began reading the funny novel aloud to my 8 and 11 year olds. We have all been enjoying the language and the wise view of life. Richard Peck has a wonderful storyteller's voice. His books are full of expressions that I can't quite place. Are they real expressions that one would have heard in rural Illinois in the 1930's? Or are they the kinds of expressions that one hears from a colorful grandparent? They sure sound great in either case.

I was waxing poetic about A Long Way From Chicago to another parent of a 6th grader when she pulled me up abruptly and asked, "Aren't they supposed to be reading A Year Down Yonder?" Sure enough, they are. A Long Way From Chicago is a companion novel to A Year Down Yonder so all our reading has not been for nothing. (Actually our reading could not ever be 'for nothing' since we are having such a lovely time with it.) My son is a fast reader and when we finish the one book, probably by tomorrow, he can race through A Year Down Yonder and be ready for school next Tuesday.

Both these books are the best kind of summer reading. They are accessible but will stretch some readers without ever being painful. They are alternately funny and thoughtful. They are peopled with characters I wish I lived with. They sound beautiful when read aloud and they lend themselves to reading aloud to the whole family. Younger and older siblings will like these novels as much as the intended reader.

I look forward to hearing how my son's classmates enjoyed the books, and I can't wait to read the final chapter of A Long Way From Chicago aloud tomorrow as we lie on the cool living room floor digesting our lunches.


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