Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Another book and more tears

I read the last three chapters of Elijah of Buxton to the kids this morning. Usually we read one chapter (sometimes two) but this morning we couldn't help ourselves and we gobbled the whole thing up.

And I cried like a baby, which confused Benjamin again. He's at the age where he was frustrated with Elijah's inaction because he's not old enough to know that it's much harder to walk the walk than it is to talk the talk. In the end Elijah does act, but in a much smaller (but still very significant) way than he originally dreamed up.

If I'm not mistaken, Miriam was tearing up a little, herself, so at least I wasn't alone in my crying this time.

There was a speech in the middle of the book that the "growned folks" make to welcome newly freed slaves into the settlement, which made me cry, and even though I knew I'd be hearing it at the end of the book and had already read it aloud it made me cry again. But then we were laughing just a couple of lines later when Frederick Douglass gets his "revenge" on Elijah.

And that's pretty much how the book went. We were laughing and crying the whole way along.

A lot of the reviews I read were negative because the book was pretty slow at the beginning and the adventure was all crammed into one evening (but spanning several chapters) at the end, but obviously we don't mind that sort of book because we just finished (and loved) Anne of Green Gables, which just about an 11-year-old girl getting into normal 11-year-old child mischief. Elijah of Buxton is largely the same in that regard. Much of the book is just about the life of an 11-year-old boy, but it's so instructive to life (and about history) that it's still interesting even if it isn't action-packed.

So now I need to find another read-aloud book for our school days ahead, though I think I'll choose one written in plain English rather than in dialect this time. While that was an interesting exercise, it was difficult to read aloud (and too difficult to read aloud for the kids to really help me read it aloud (sometimes I like to have them take turns so I can rest my voice (and because it's good practice to read things aloud))).

A friend of mine recently asked for help on compiling book recommendations for their children. They prefer to preview everything their children read, which is completely their prerogative, but are having trouble keeping up with the more voracious readers in their home. And I totally get that. If I tried to keep up with my readers and the various things they want to read I would...not be able to do it (plain and simple). Personally, I like having them make their own reading choices. Sometimes they read things I suggest to them, which is nice because it's fun to know they're traveling through the same stories I have. Other times they suggest that I read things—and that's fun, too (and I think they like having been the first to read a book, to be the one to recommend it)!

Anyway, this friend has developed a rubric, similar to a published book list (of both recommendations and condemnations) that I sort of can't stand. But he'd like to expand it to include other genres that this particular book list doesn't cover and was looking for people willing to be readers for him.

I did not volunteer because I knew I wasn't cut out for the task.

While Anne of Green Gables made it to the recommended list that I'm referring to, Elijah of Buxton was definitely on the list of condemnation because "a Kindle search of the eBook revealed use of taking the Lord's name in vain," which is something I can completely shrug off when I'm reading (and not only that, but who are we to judge whether someone is really taking the Lord's name in vain; I felt that some of the cries to the Lord weren't profanity in this book but were genuinely heartfelt cries (and that's really hard to judge from a quick word search)). Besides, people use that phrase all the time so I don't see how having my kids read the phrase is any more harmful than hearing their neighbourhood friends say it. We've already had that discussion with our kids: "I know your friends say that but in our home we don't."

Funny enough, they didn't even list (nor even probably think to search for) the n-word before banning this book without even having read it. But it's in there! I didn't say it, but I showed the word to the kids and then we read the next part of the book, which was of a grown up giving the child who used the word a lengthy explanation of exactly why they never wanted to hear that word pass over their lips ever again.

But that was also a conversation I was happy to have with my children.

There are also some rather intense scenes at the end of the book, but...given the nature of the topic of the book, I was expecting such scenes to show up (and honestly the scenes weren't anywhere as "terrorific" for me as the scenes Christopher Paul Curtis describes in The Journey of Little Charlie).

Anyway, it's an excellent read and one I would definitely recommend. Benjamin gushed when we finished reading, "We need to buy this book!" (we currently have it checked out from the library) and asked if we could read the next Elijah book (which I think would be The Madman of Piney Woods).

I'm not sure we'll read that book aloud, but perhaps I'll check it out for Benjamin to read if he'd like to (even without ever having read it myself). My kids tend to be pretty good judges of character and my version of intentional parenting leads me to allow them to make such judgements on their own (because eventually they'll have to make those judgements anyway).

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