Monday, June 11, 2012

Books for Boys

Last month we held a garage sale.  The biggest table was filled with boxes of books--one's that we've already used for school or that Schnickelfritz had outgrown.  There were some real treasures there: hardback collections of Thomas the Tank Engine (yes, it was a book before it appeared on PBS), Curious George, Babar, and Dr. Suess.  I'd taken the time to sort everything into history, science, young readers, art, hobbies, etc.  And you know what happened?  I couldn't give the books away!  I sold maybe a dozen (and those to a fellow homeschooler) out of hundreds of titles.  And I don't think it's because they've all switched to e-readers.  One mom tried six times to get her 5 year old to okay the purchase of a picture book of Disney's Little Mermaid but it was no sale.  "Why read when you can watch it on DVD?" asked the girl.  In my mind I thought "Why give her the choice mom? "

I'll admit having struggles with getting Fritz to read as well.  While he can read chapter books quite well, he prefers listening to me or audio versions.  At least his still letting his imagination put the pictures in his head instead of the boob tube.  So here's what were reading this summer....

Hank the Cowdog series by John R. Erickson--Even our little library has the complete set of 59 titles.  Okay, they haven't received #59 yet and Fritz got so tired of waiting he used his lemonade stand money to purchase his own copy.  That's probably the highest recommendation a 9 year old boy can give.  Hank lives and works on a Texas cattle ranch and he's appointed himself  "Head of Ranch Security."  He investigates chicken murders, fights coyotes, exasperates the rancher's wife, and falls in love with the neighbor's collie.  The audio versions of these books have made travel by car much more pleasant.  The author reads the books himself and has come up with distinct voices for everyone from J.T. Cluck, the rooster to Missy Coyote, daughter of the chief.  

The Great Brain series by John D. Fitzgerald--This set is one I received for Christmas when I was in first grade but the books are still in print.  All the stories are based on the author's childhood in Utah growing up with older brothers Tom and Sweyn.  Tom was often using his mental prowess to make a fast buck--like the time he sold tickets to see the new water closet installed in their home, but Mamma was always there to make sure justice prevailed and no one got swindled.  Other times the Great Brain used his powers for good like helping find the Jensen kids lost in Skeleton Cave.   One word of caution:  The final chapter of The Great Brain deals with a boy who wants to commit suicide rather than live with a peg leg.  The two attempts are done in a rather blundering way and eventually the Great Brain helps the boy to see he still has much to live for.  Each chapter stands on its own so you could just skip it if you don't wish to expose your kids to the topic (assuming you're reading it aloud).

Freddy the Pig series by Walter R. Brooks--talking animals again,  perhaps the original talking animals.  The author is the one who came up with the famous Mr. Ed.  These books deal with Freddy as he becomes a detective, runs a bank, edits a newspaper, learns to fly a plane, and more.  Of course these books require a lot of imagination to assume that no one is even surprised to hear a talking pig.  Perhaps it says something about the intelligence of the town because they can't even recognize the pig when he's wearing one of his disguises.   Some of these are available in audio version--read by John McDonough (the latest Captain Kangaroo). 

Centerburg Tales and Homer Price by Robert McCloskey--I wish there were more than two books to this series.  Homer lived in the age of Saturday serial matinees.  When kids would put down their tops and jacks and listen to one of Grampa Hercules'  tall tales.  Homer stops a band of armed robbers with a pet skunk,  and helps find a diamond bracelet that accidentally fell in the automatic donut making machine. See how long it takes your kids to figure out how Mrs. Terwilliger wins the largest ball of string constest.   If you like the illustrations in Make Way For Ducklings you're in luck because this is the same author/illustrator.   John McDonough does a fine job on the audiobooks of these as well.

Be sure to see what others are reading this summer on the Blog Cruise (on Tuesday morning). 

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