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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wednesday's for Kids XIV -- LATE NIGHT, SNEAKY READING

I have a tendency (unintentional, of course) to exaggerate how young I was when I started to read "chapter books," as they're called.  Regardless of how old I was or wasn't, non-fiction tended to dominate my grade school canon.  Yeah, I was dorky.  I actually read an abridged dictionary for Book It! in 3rd grade--well, A-E or F or so, anyway.  My favorites were a series of fantastically illustrated books by David Macaulay with such terse titles as Cathedral, Castle, Pyramid, and City.  I would read these over and over again, way too late into the night, hiding under the blankets with the flashlight--feet on my pillow, face at the foot, buried deep--and a ready ear tuned to the stairs in case Dad came to check on me.  I don't remember the grades precisely--somewhere between 2nd and 5th, more or less, I'd say--but somewhere around the discovery of Macauley (thanks, Dad), there were also three novels--whoa! fiction!! --that equally captured my imagination, also which I only ever read late at night (unlike the Alice books, which were uniquely day-reading), and all of which remain to this day three of my all-time favorites.  (And two of them are actually pretty darn good!)

1: Call It Courage, by Armstrong Sperry  --  I lost my copy and am eager to buy a new one.  This is the first novel I ever fell in love with. 

2: Invasion of the Brain Sharpeners, by Philip Curtis  --  Admittedly, this isn't a fantastic book by typical, snobby literary standards.  It falls under roughly the same category as The Riddle of the Traveling Skull, which I've been raving about so much lately.  This is pulp fiction (not the movie, for better or worse) for kids.  (This book also maintains a particular hold on me as a teacher.  The book's premise: a teacher bemoans his idiot students and wishes they were sharper; eavesdropping aliens not so far away come to sharpen their brains!)

my personal copy -- a treasure!

3: James and the Giant Peach, by Roald Dahl.  --  Enough said.  (Well, not quite, apparently:)  It's better than Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  Seriously.  And if you've only ever seen the movie, then shame on you!

I can't say this is my personal copy.  Somehow it
accompanied me to college from home and never
made its way back.


  1. I call foul, Sir! Yes, "James and the Giant Peach" is a great book, but better than "The Chocolate Factory"? Bah. Humbug. Perhaps to a kid who would rather eat peaches than chocolate, but I have nothing further to say about such a child.

    I remember "James and the Giant Peach" because the movie came out while I was in my pre-school/kindergarten gymnastics class and all the kids used to make fun of me by calling me, "James and the Giant Peach!" It was years before I finally read the book due to this, and, no, I'm not kidding.

  2. Anti-nostalgia does not a bad book make! I think a full cross-textual analysis is in order! I declare war! :)

  3. Oh goodness. I don't have the books on hand and haven't read them in forever. I prefer to base the truth on whatever my abstract, general opinion of a given subject happens to be.

  4. The only problem is I don't know if I'll have time! Maybe when Alice is done....

  5. I could blow my annual "Just sayin'," and settle the dispute, but I don't know if I want to use it in February. Still 10 months left.

  6. Haha! So you just save your "Just Sayin'" now and I'll hold back my "Told you so" when it's over. :)


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