Monday, December 01, 2008

Ramona Q. vs. Junie B.

(Note: yes, I gave up on NaBloPoMo this year, with only 4 days to go... but I felt like all the posting was eating up precious painting time. So - the paints and the sewing won out, and you will see more of that soon.)

Sophie, as I've mentioned before, is a bit precocious. She taught herself to read at age two, and since then, we've had a time supplying her with enough books. She's gone through all of Dr. Seuss and Tomie dePaola, enjoys Shel Silverstein, Nate the Great, Amelia Bedelia, Frog and Toad, Curious George, and is now working on chapter books. BUT - while she may read like a 10-year-old, she is still only five. Her favorite books that she's carried around all summer are the Sideways Stories series, and they are now dog-eared from repeated readings. But the fact is, she's not in 4th grade like the students in the series. She's in kindergarten and some of it is just a bit beyond her understanding; I wanted to find something age-appropriate.

So I went to the library, determined to find some short chapter books that would be just right for Sophie: hopefully they would be funny or silly, because she loves that, and not be just about princesses and fairies and braiding hair (or makeup, pretty dresses, and braiding hair, or about whatever new thing marketers are painting pink and pushing on little girls. No Rainbow Magic or Jewel Princesses, thank you.)

I picked up two of the Junie B. Jones books because they looked about the right size, and were about a kindergarten girl, Babysitter's Club Little Sister books because I'd read the BC's waaaaay back in the day and knew they were clean, and Ramona the Pest, because guess what? Ramona is in kindergarten, and besides it's a classic. Naturally, I read them first before handing them off (or not) to Soph.

Junie B.... I was pretty horrified with. Yes, she's spunky, but she mouths off to her teacher all the time and is regularly rude to her classmates and family. There's been some controversy about her bad grammar; I could care less about that. The rudeness and name-calling - maybe it's funnier when the reader's older, but there's no way I was handing that off to Sophie. Those went back the library the next day.

Babysitter's Club, which I knew would be pretty innocuous, I also put aside for now. Karen, the main character, is 5 and goes to kindergarten, but she also lives in two houses, and has two families, because her parents are divorced. If Sophie even had one friend whose parents were divorced, or asked me about it, I would be happy to discuss it with her. But at this point in her life why should I even let the thought enter her head that some parents don't stay married forever? Not necessary.

And then there's Ramona. Ramona Quimby is all the things Junie B. wishes she were, and more. Ramona is creative, a little rambunctious, imaginative, and is not above "making a great big fuss" if she wants to get her way. But she's never rude, never intentionally mean, and her worst insult is to call someone a baby - which to her, is the antithesis of all that it means to be a kindergartner. We've been reading it out loud together and whenever we get to the part about the "dawnzer, that gives a lee light" she and Angela crack up. Ramona rocks and so does Beverly Cleary. (By the way, Ramona is the book that got carried around with her this weekend.)

My friend Krystyna, who reminded me of the Ramona books and also has a 5-year-old daughter, also suggested the Little House series and the American Girl series. So - here's where I need some input - what books would you suggest for Sophie? Something not too sophisticated or grown up, anything about adventurous characters is good but please no killing. I have tried reading all three of them Mary Poppins and Pippi Longstocking but they're still a little too young for it, it seems. (And by the way, my earliest memory is of sitting on my mom's lap, reading Nancy Drew.)

Please, suggest away!

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