Ever since my oldest’s first Christmas, I have given each of my children a book as one of their gifts. I do this for their birthdays, too, and inscribe them, “Merry __st Christmas (or birthday), [Child’s Name Here]! Love, Mommy and Daddy.” Aside from the obvious future nostalgia, my master plan is that when my sons grow up and have families of their own, I will pack all of those books into boxes to give to their children. That way, their kids will either be guaranteed some good reads, or they can sell the books as antiques, since by then everyone will probably have giant screen e-readers on their bedroom walls.
When I search for these books, I do so on an almost primeval level. I don’t go to the store with any titles in mind, I just know them when I see them, like a literary divining rod. This year, though, my older son is into the “Boys Book of ____” series, so I decided to get one of those for him. My younger son was going to pose enough of a problem all by himself.
In the third grade, he’s making the switch (as most third graders do) from mastering reading to synthesizing content. Although he reads at grade level, he has an auditory processing issue that makes it difficult for him to sound out words, and he tends to get frustrated unless there are lots of pictures as clues. My challenge was to find an interesting story that had enough action to keep him hooked, with plenty of pictures to carry him through the rough spots.
Monday was My Big Shopping Day, and I arrived at the local bookstore with the confidence of someone who has always discerned the perfect book. After walking past the science kits and magic tricks that lined the entrance of the children’s section, I headed straight for the chapter books.
Captain Underpants was an early contender, but when I opened it up, the pictures were black and white line drawings, and my youngest is a colored illustration kind of guy. There were scores of Magic Treehouse books, but I have a personal bias against only using the word “said,” as a dialogue tag, and that series is a little too cerebral for his tastes, anyway. He’s just not into the Hardy Boys, and Nate the Great was too simplistic. Undaunted, I moved on to the independent reader section and contemplated Harry Potter and his many copycats, and then Percy Jackson and all of the Percy Jackson wannabes. I even tried the cookbook section. Rather then the internal hum of the perfect choice, I felt nothing. Not even a twinge.
Depressed, I bought a magic set for him and left. Then I went to Target to see if they had anything, but their selection for that age group was even worse, so I just went home. It was too late to order anything from Amazon, but there was no way I wasn’t getting him a book he’d like for his ninth Christmas, so the next day I tried a different book store.
As I perused the shelves, with almost identical results, I was starting to lose hope and consider less than ideal choices when I had an Oldies-but-Goodies brainwave. Ribsy, by Beverly Cleary. Some pictures, not too wordy, good story with lots of dog action. The illustrations aren’t in color, but are detailed enough that I knew he’d like them. Zing!
Although the previous day’s bookstore had a much bigger selection of independent readers, I went over to take a look. There it was, just waiting to be wrapped up and put under our tree.
I love old books. They never let you down.