Me: (entering the hallway to find Hank sitting in front of the kid’s bookshelf) Whatcha doin, sailor?
Hank: (not taking his eyes off the books) I want a new chapter book to read until we find the Magician’s Nephew.
Me: I still have no idea where that book is!
Me: Fairies… only explanation.
Hank: I don’t think the fairies stole it, but I do think that asking Paige Portensia for help to find it is a good idea.
Me: I concur.
Hank: I don’t know what book to choose.
Me: Well, that is the great challenge for all readers, but I find the back of the book to be infinitely helpful. Have you tried that?
Me: For example, here is a book that Liz and Rob gave you. It’s called The Mystery of the Burnt Cottage, by Enid Blyton. She was an extremely popular writer in England, but I never read her books growing up in America and if we look at the back of the book it says:
“Fatty, Larry, Daisy, Pip, Bets and Buster the dog turn detectives when a mysterious fire destroys a thatched cottage in their village. Calling themselves the ‘Five Find-Outers and Dog,’ they set out to solve the mystery and discover the culprit. The final solution, however, surprises the Fine Find-Outers almost as much as Mr. Goon, the village policeman!” (handing Hank the book)
Hank: That sounds good. What is a thatched cottage?
Me: A thatched cottage is one where the roof is made with a thick, complicated carpet of straw.
Hank: Can we look at one on google?
Me: For sure. And the most enthusiastic readers no matter how fascinated they are by the back of the first book they pick up always pick up a second to read as well. Would you choose another, please?
Hank: I liked that book, but I cried. It was such a good story and so sad, but then you had to try and be happy again even though you were sad.
Me: True story. Charlotte’s Web is a lot like life in general: Super good, thrilling, nerve wracking, joyous, and at points devastating, but utterly worth it. Never judge a book by the last story the author told. If that were the case I would have never read another book by Thomas Hardy after the traumatic Jude the Obscure and I love Thomas Hardy’s books. Ok, let’s look at the back:
“Stuart Little is a mouse in the family of the Frederick C. Littles and is a pleasantly debonair little character, with a shy and engaging manner and a somewhat philosophical turn of mind. His size – just over two inches – does give him some trouble now and then. But on the whole his life is a happy one. His great adventure comes when, at the age of seven, he set out in the world to seek his dearest friend, Margalo, a beautiful little bird who stayed in the Littles’ Boston fern.” (handing Hank the book)
Hank: So now I pick?
Hank: Well, I want to read the mystery book. Have we ever read a mystery book?
Hank: And I want to read a book where someone is called Fatty. Who’s mother calls them Fatty? That is a mystery, too.