Book Taming

After Christmas it was high time to tame the books in our house, especially the kid shelves.  Our daughter had a stack of chapter books on her floor that were starting to look like a night stand and our son had so many picture books on his bedroom shelf that you couldn’t find a thing.  I had the sinking feeling there were big winners on his shelf we hadn’t read for a year or more.  Chaos!  Breakdown of civil society, at least on our shelves.  Adding to the family shame, I had books in the Bob Room (our storage room) that the kids hadn’t seen for years.  Things like The Library Dragon (watch for the review) and Sweet and Sour Lily.  Great stuff!

So we went to the kids and they responded like the terrific folks they are.  They made big stacks of books that could go into the Bob Room or head down the road.  Of course a dad has to have thick skin.  (How could our boy push out Mop Top, Don Freeman’s 1955 classic?  And can our daughter really be done with Amelia’s Notebook?)

At any rate it was exciting how seriously they took their tasks.  We found board books to pass onto pre-school friends, stuff to sell back at Powell’s, Goodwill books, and books to take to the free shelf at the kids’ school.

It’s fun to see what they value.  For instance our daughter has her chapter books on the primest shelf space.  Even though she now reads way beyond Junie B. Jones, she’s not ready to part with the belly laughs Junie B. brings.  I love that she still loves a range of picture books.  Most of her culls were from the picture books, but she kept a lot of  favorites.

 Naturally she hung onto Scrambled States of America Talent Show and She’s Wearing a Dead Bird on Her Head.  No surprise she kept What Do People Do All Day by Richard Scarry and Shark Vs. Train, one of her recent favorites.  And she stuck by many classics such as Olivia, Tikki Tikki Tembo, The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, and even Journey Cake, Ho (from 1953, with the wonderful Robert McCloskey illustrations)

Our six-year-old was pretty ruthless, taking out at least half of his books.  So I chekced out what he saved. For one category, all his picture books drawn from the Little House books (called “my first little house books“).  Which reminds us, it might be time for some full-on Laura Ingalls Wilder bookage.  Many books were no surprise.  He definitely kept his Chris Van Dusen books, two about Mr. Magee and his little dog Dee, as well as If I Built a Car.  Naturally he kept Pirate Cruncher and Jake Starts School.  Another no-brainer was Cars and Trucks and Things That Go by Richard Scarry.

I was pleased that he kept the two picture books about a bear who is like Thoreau including Henry Hikes to Fitchburg.  Local authors fared well, whether my son knows they’re local or not.  He hung onto his Just a Party illustrated by Robyn Waters, The Big Wish by Carolyn Conahan, and Brownie Groundhog and the February Fox written by Susan Blackaby.  I was amazed by two books he kept:  William and His Kitten, our old library discard from 1938 by Marjorie Flack (did we even read it?), and the snoozy-to-Dad Yesterday’s Fire Engines, a library discard from 1980.   I shouldn’t be surprised; we’ve navigated its dense prose quite a few times.

OK, our shelves are freshened up and we’re ready to have a great reading year in 2013.  Kick out the reads!

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6 Comments

Filed under Age: All

6 responses to “Book Taming

  1. I love this post! It’s as if we’re peering over the kids’ shoulders as they do a flurry of flash-reviews via the culling and keeping process. Your wit is wonderful . . . Breakdown of civil society, no less 🙂

    You’ve reminded/inspired me to make some updates to my Books I Love page. My recent survey-takers expressed widespread interest in suggestions of good books to read. So I think we’re both on the right track here, Dan.

    • I love looking at people’s bookshelves. And when its my own young kids’, I’m not even snooping! I’ll be sure to look at your recommendations again at Diamond Cut Life.

      I checked in with some Oregon authors about kid fiction that addresses climate change. One recommendation was Redwood by S. Terril French. Another was Ship Breaker by Paolo Baciagalupi. It was described as a gritty YA novel about trying to survive in the Mississippi basin after years of flooding and superstorms. I haven’t checked them out yet. I’ll keep my eye out for books on that theme.

  2. Dan–Thanks for the great recommendations! I don’t pay a lot of attention to kid lit, as I myself tend to read at more of 4th grade level,occasionally dipping as low as 3rd grade, but never higher than about 5th grade mid-year. So, I depend on you and your kids, Dan, to keep me apprised of what’s what with the younger set. Usually when I see an old book, I see a worn-out library discard (unless it’s first edition Chaucer), but you see classics everywhere ~ I appreciate your perspective and passion!

    • Ah yes, the beat up library editions. One year with my second grade class I remember taking them to weekly library checkout and telling them they HAD to find an ugly book to check out. Turns out alot of the best ones were beat up or wearing one of those frumpy library bindings. But when they dug them up they knew they’d found gems!

  3. It really is a joy to watch kids become more of who they are and sorting, keeping, and discarding are wonderful opportunities to observe this phenomenon. Your kids sound brilliant!

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