What I’m Reading To My Children

Photo credit Universal Studios

I recently took a group of 7th, 8th, and 9th graders through a ten-month creative writing course in which they learned to plot and write a short story. Along with their weekly writing assignments they also had to read two Newbery Award winning novels: The Westing Game and The Tale of Despereaux. I read, and loved, The Westing Game  as a tween. But I did not discover Kate DiCamillo until a few years ago. In my opinion, she is the most talented children’s writer alive today. One day I’d love to thank her in person for the impact The Tale of Despereaux had on my students and on my children. It is a breath-taking novel.

This semester, as I gave reading assignments to my students, I read those same chapters to my boys at home. There were times that I stopped in the middle of a passage and marveled DiCamillo’s ability to capture the magic of reading in so few words:

Despereaux looked down at the book, and something remarkable happened. The marks on the pages, the “squiggles” as Merlot referred to them, arranged themselves into shapes. The shapes arranged themselves into words, and the words spelled out a delicious and wonderful phrase: Once Upon A Time.

It is no surprise that The Tale of Despereaux was adapted into an animated film in 2008. And I have nothing against the movie. It’s actually quite lovely. But it doesn’t hold a candle to the book. And on the last day of class, I watched the film with my students. But I told them the same thing that I told my children when I let them watch the movie for the first time. “Listen to the film score,” I said. “And marvel at the digital animation. Enjoy every moment of this film. But remember it wouldn’t exist if a writer hadn’t found the courage to tell her story.”

Question: what are you reading to the child in your life?

About Ariel Lawhon

Ariel Lawhon is co-founder of the popular online book club, She Reads, a novelist, blogger, and life-long reader. She lives in the rolling hills outside Nashville, Tennessee with her husband and four young sons (aka The Wild Rumpus). Her novel, THE WIFE THE MAID AND THE MISTRESS, will be published in January 2014 by Doubleday. Ariel believes that Story is the shortest distance to the human heart.

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3 Responses to What I’m Reading To My Children

  1. Sibella Giorello May 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    Completely agree: Kate DiCamillo is a marvel. My kids have adored all her books, beginning with “Mercy Watson” in elementary school. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. Ariel May 9, 2012 at 10:17 pm #

    Hi Sibella! So great to see you here again. My goal is to own Kate DiCamillo’s entire library. She’s one author that I’ll always seek out. I don’t think you’re ever too old to read her books.

  3. lamilian bellamy May 1, 2014 at 10:17 am #

    this book is very good. i like it personally

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