This evening I lent out my sewing machine to a friend who is hand making Christmas presents. While I applaud my friend's efforts, especially since a handmade Christmas was not her idea but she seems to be taking up the challenge with good humour, this is not my year for handmade. I have bought stuff. But don't be too shocked.
See, Smootch is learning to read. Or, she has learned to read and now she's refining her fluency. She reads EVERYTHING and if she's not reading it, she's insisting I read it to her. It's brilliant and fascinating and sometimes a bit annoying and I feel like she's growing into this amazing scholar right before my eyes.
And few posts ago I wrote about how I'd just like to give books for Christmas and then over thought the whole gift giving thing a bit too much. One comment on the post was from someone who had overheard a conversation while riding on a train (or was it a bus?) of two people discussing what to give a child for a present. One person suggested a book and the other dismissed it quickly, 'Nah, he's already got one of those.'
I mentioned this comment to Birdie the other day and then asked him what it would be like if he only had one book. He looked around our house (he can survey the whole thing from his spot on the couch, remember we only have 644 square feet) and taking in the bookshelf and the other bookshelf and the pile of books beside him on the couch and the one of the floor and the drift of books over in front of the tv and my ever present book perched on the small pony wall and then the other books and the new shelf I put in above the dining table so I could put a few books up there and he said, 'We'd have so much room!'
Ah, space to move is so overrated. Especially if you have a cup of tea and a good book to read. Books are all around us and there is no escape from it here. There seems to be nothing else to do but surrender to the theme.
I've bought a cartload books from a second hand store - well kept, good quality, pretty pretty books - and will be making them kraft paper book covers to maintain some element of mystery under the tree and also give the children something to write messages on. I'm haven't worried too much about trying to find the perfect book for each recipient. Mysteries may be given to the romance readers. Fiction to the history buffs. People may have to deal with receiving a book that they would never normally pick up on their own. Who knows, perhaps they'll discover something new to love? And if they don't, well, they can always find somebody who could use something new to read.
Here is the back cover of a kraft paper book cover Smootch made for her friend's birthday present (a book that was chosen because it is Smootch's all time favorite book in a series that we read each night before bed). Do you know what the book is?
In the spirit of discovering new types of books, I've been spending more time reading children's literature. Smootch's growing independence is reminding me that at some point she will be venturing forward without me to discover all the amazing books out there and I won't get to use her as an excuse anymore to read children's fiction the way that I have with picture books. I love love the picture books, Margaret Wise Brown, Robert Munch, Jon Scieszka, Maurice Sendak, David Shannon, Mo Willems, and the thousands of smart, wondrous and brilliant books I've read to the kids over the past seven years. I would of never chosen to read these books to myself without the children and even if I had, I would of gobbled them up quickly without the appreciation that grows from studying a single page of Where the Wild Things Are for ten minutes straight or the hundredth reading of Goodnight Moon. Only a child can force us into these situations and help us see the brilliance of children's authors. I need to thank my children for teaching me how to really look at a book and see more everytime I peer between the covers.
I have amassed a few hundred chapter books for the kids to discover as they get older. Thinking about how much I've learnt from picture books, I've decided to follow Smootch and whatever she is reading, I will too. Actually, technically, I've started reading ahead. I've just finished Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox and will be picking up The Secret Garden when I'm done here.
(As I type this, The Man is sitting beside me, completely wrapped up in Roald Dahl's Matilda. Seems like this may turn into a family journey.)