Soon enough, I know, Pearl will want to read the plethora of picture books and board books that she has (she already seems to like the look of the pictures). But for now, I enjoy reading her some of my elementary school favourites. It seems a little false to include them in my own reading tally of the month so I’ll keep them in their own section here.
Danny the Champion of the World – Roald Dahl (Puffin, 1998)
I love Roald Dahl’s books. I remember discovering them in grade three, hardly believing that such wit and snark against grown-ups could be allowed. Danny is a little more serious than most of Dahl’s writing for children. There are hints at the sadness Danny’s dad feels and the affection between Danny and his father is deep and real. There are classic Dahlisms though – the over the top character of Mr. Victor Hazell or the sly Sergeant Samways, for example. And, of course, Danny’s champion poaching plan.
Fantastic Mr. Fox – Roald Dahl (Puffin, 1998)
Continuing with Pearl’s introduction to Roald Dahl, we read Fantastic Mr. Fox. This is classic Dahl – the gross descriptions of the bad guys, the clever solutions, the endearing nature of the good guys. A quick and fun read.
Little Women – Louisa May Alcott (The Children’s Press, 1974)
“Money is a good and useful thing, Jo, and I hope my girls will never feel the need of it too bitterly, nor be tempted by too much. I am content to see Meg begin humbly, for, she will be rich in the possession of a good man’s heart, and that is better than a fortune.”
A definite classic for young girls. Re-reading it now after a few years what jumps out at me is how old fashioned it is. The language, the interests of the girls. As well, I don’t think I’d ever realized before that the girls’ father is away due to the Civil War.
This is an idealized view of the world for sure – the sort of genteel poverty that it displays and the pure-hearted nature of every single person – but it’s a sweet, fun read that might make you wish you had a sister or three
Good Wives – Louisa May Alcott (Puffin Classics,1988)
Many versions publish this sequel in one volume with Little Women and the movie lumped them together but they actually came out three years apart and the action of Good Wives begins three years after Little Women ends, starting with Meg’s marriage to John Brooke. We learn what happens next for the March girls – who gets married, who goes travelling, who has children.
If Pearl was older I either wouldn’t have read her this book or we would have had a lot of conversations about it. It’s painfully old-fashioned and not always in the rather sweet manner of Little Women. Over and over again, Good Wives talks about the roles of women as wives and mothers and it’s so out of date as to be painful. Alcott seems bound to explain to us what women are like and the roles they really want to fill (primarily as wives and mothers who let their husbands and fathers make the big decisions and guide them in every way). The most painful chapters are the ones dealing with Meg and John’s marriage. John is shown to be such a good husband because he trusts Meg with the household money. Meg fails as a wife when she begins to struggle with their young twins. She’s neglecting John, who seems to be pretty uninvolved in the raising of their children.
Even spunky, independent Jo is disappointingly mellowed out in this novel. She moves away on her own and begins to make money with her stories but by the end of the novel, she has given up writing and settled down to get married.
One day, I hope to read this again with Pearl and have lots of conversations about the roles of women and how they’ve changed and why that’s important. For now, we’ll put Good Wives back on the shelf for a few years.
The Gammage Cup – Carol Kendall