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Judy Blume, Karolyn Keene, Beverley Cleary, and Francine Pascal were some of the authors I read when I was in elementary school.

Fast forward thirty years and you’ll find my mini-me, Miss Q, reading Tui T. Sutherland, Erin Hunter, Dan Jolley, Chris Colfer and J.K. Rowling to name only five in her massive library.

The difference between me at nine and Miss Q at nine? Genre.

Where my cherished couldn’t-wait-to-read books were close to real life fiction: friendship, mystery, and twin sisters trying to navigate high school.  Miss Q’s cherished must reads centre on fantasy. From the dragons of Wings of Fire, to the cats in the Warrior series, she is hooked. So hooked, I’m contemplating filling a wheelbarrow with books and leaving it under the Christmas tree.

I’ve always wanted my girls to love literature. Always followed my mum’s prescription of as long as they’re reading I don’t care what they read. So it makes me very happy to see Miss Q curled up with a book.

But I never considered my favourites wouldn’t be her favourites.

Enter my husband, the original D ‘n D (Dungeons & Dragon). Like me, he’s held onto a stack of books from his childhood. Like me, he’s always thought one day his children might want to read them.

Well guess what? When it comes to our eldest daughter, he was right.

Currently, Miss Q is plowing her way through Lord Of The Rings after finishing the Hobbit last week.

I still haven’t finished the Lord Of The Rings trilogy after starting it, oh, fifteen years ago.

Psychologists say after year one, fathers are the most important influencers on a child’s life. While this statement feels like a slight to me, the woman who birthed, nursed and hung out in the wee hours of the morning with our offspring, as I watch Miss Q and her father interact, sigh, I know it’s true: at the core of their twinned dragon hearts live souls of elf warriors.

Better luck next child, Nancy Drew, Super Fudge, and Anne with an ‘e’.

But even though Miss Q hasn’t bought into what I would have chosen for her, I really can’t grumble. I was the one who introduced her to Harry Potter, the portkey into the fantastical worlds now calling to her.

My nine-year-old’s eyes dance as she describes the inner workings of plots I’ve never dreamed of writing and my husband nods fondly, encouraging her to go on.  I listen, trying not to be the third wheel in their love language of orcs, healers and rangers, finding comfort in this quote by George R. R. Martin:

A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.

So read on, Miss Q. Read on. Don’t let anyone, especially your mother’s nostalgia, hold you back.

gHere is Miss Q’s current must-have reading list in no particular order:

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For eight years children’s books have ferreted into our house. They’ve hidden in purses, and laid-in-wait in backpacks.  They’ve popped out of parcels and tumbled out of envelopes.

More than once I’ve given the stink-eye to a cover only to find a magical land hidden in the pages. Rarely have we found a book that no one likes. Having written that sentence, I’m actually not sure if we’ve ever found a book that absolutely no one in our house will touch.

While Miss Q hunkers down with stories of magic, unicorns, friendship, and animals, her younger sisters are all over the map.

Thanks to Miss Q, Miss S and Miss C were introduced to heavy subjects like Harry Potter and Monster High early in life. They’ve listened to Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz, and multiple Judy Blume books long before they knew how funny Fudge’s mum’s declaration of “eat it or wear it” really was.

The first series of books Miss S really sunk her teeth into was The Sister’s Eight. These nine books by Lauren Baratz-Logsted are about sisters, octuplets, born on the eighth day of the eighth month, whose parents disappear. Each month one of the sisters gains a power. Each book covers one month and captured Miss S in a way only she can explain.

Miss S was so smitten by these books that on her last school report card she gave her birthday as August 8th – the same day as the sisters.

Now that the series is over, Miss S has been flitting around our library, bouncing from Wonder Woman to Little House on the Prairie. But, what none of us knew is she was holding out.

There was one book Miss S secretly hoped would arrive.  One book she’d seen on a book fair flyer, mentioned to me in passing, but never seemed truly serious. Yet, all along, it was the one book she knew she had to read.

Enter Captain Underpants.

Yes, sigh, how could we have gone eight years without this beaut crossing our paths? Eight years of potty humour freedom down the drain.

My mum broke the seal, arriving last night to babysit with six gently used books in her hands.

Miss S’s eyes almost fell onto the floor with her mouth. “CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS,” she cried, taking the four underpant books.

“You have to start with the first one,” my mum encouraged.

To be fair, my mum had asked if I wanted the books before she came over. I typed, “Sure!” Not realizing four letters and an exclamation mark of permission would lead my middle daughter down the path to cray-zee.

I returned from 1.5 hours of work to find my Miss S sitting on the couch in her underwear.

“Well, we read the whole book,” my mum said.

“I know what I’m bringing for show and tell,” Miss S told me.

“What?”

“CAPTAIN UNDERPANTS.”

I apologized in advance to her teacher this morning.

“Why, is her show and tell alive?” Mrs. P asked suspiciously.

“No, she has Captain Underpants in her bag.”

Turns out, Miss S is on trend with the boys in her class who have recently learned to spell. Pictures of poo and the word poo are rampant in division nine.

Books two to four sit on our coffee table, and I see there are another seven in the series by Dav Pilkey. Clearly we’ve got a lot to learn about Captain Underpants, Professor Poopypants and the rest of the rag-tag crew.  One can only hope The Captain is flushed from our systems by the time Miss C reaches kindergarten.

If not, I will take pride in the fact the littles love books; and find comfort in the knowledge gleaned from Laurel Thatcher Ulrich: Well behaved women seldom make history.

200px-Captainunderpantscover

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It goes without saying, we will do anything for our children.  But when a friend goes to great lengths for your child, it means so much more.

A couple of years back, when our backyard neighbours’ daughter was cleaning out her room, Miss Q received four of the five books of Vicki Blum’s fantasy unicorn series.  The series doesn’t have an overarching name, but it follows a girl named Arica and her friendship with a unicorn named Wish. Back then, my husband and Miss Q read book one together and the incomplete series was shelved for older days.

Miss Q started reading the series this month, by herself.  Unicorns are her new favourite.  Don’t worry, she hasn’t turned her back on horses, cats and any other animal that crosses her path, but the mythical creatures now have top billing.

Wish Upon a Unicorn and The Land Without Unicorns appeared with Miss Q this week.  Exhibits ‘A’ and ‘B’. “I’ve read the whole series, and I sort of know what happens after the first book, because they tell you in the third, but I don’t really know…”

“So you need the second book?”

“Yes.”

It is here where I admit I have no idea what my child has been reading.  She and I could have endless conversations about the first four Harry Potter’s (5 to 7 seemed too dark and angstful to let her read) but unicorns?  This is foreign territory.

In my youth I was not a horse girl.

CM UnicornThe quest to find book two, The Shadow Unicorn, began.  I started with one of our local bookstores.  The woman there told me it was out of print.

Our neighbours didn’t have book two either.  Mrs. K suggested I try a used book store. But before I could follow up on that lead, Mrs. K had emailed one of them on my behalf.

She called across the backyards yesterday afternoon to say it was there and on hold under her name!  Within 24 hours of starting the quest, I found myself in Russell Books paying $1.99 for The Shadow Unicorn. 

When you move into a neighbourhood, the house and the yard might be perfect, but the neighbours are always the wildcard.  From the day we moved into our house ten years ago to present day, Mrs. K and her family have made us feel so welcome with their kindness.  They are the best neighbours we could have asked for.

Now, thanks to Mrs. K, Miss Q has a complete set and has started re-reading book one.

Apparently I ordered these incorrectly. Book One is Wish Upon a Unicorn Book Two is The Shadow Unicorn Book Three is The Land Without Unicorns Book Four is The Promise of the Unicorn and Book Five is A Gathering of Unicorns

Apparently I ordered these incorrectly. Book One is Wish Upon a Unicorn Book Two is The Shadow Unicorn Book Three is The Land Without Unicorns Book Four is The Promise of the Unicorn and Book Five is A Gathering of Unicorns

If you’re looking for another great unicorn book, check out this graphic novel:

Unicorn Book CMMiss Q has laughed her way through it four times this week.

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At long last number four is here.  My story ‘Selfie’ is story number six in the book.  Page 27.

It’s been fun sitting on this secret since before Christmas, and, admittedly a little squirmy, considering the subject matter.  No, it’s not a prequel to Mummy Dearest, but it is a story about my mum. And when you write about family, you never know how they’ll react – so far she’s still taking me and the girls to Cinderella.

It’s always an affirmation to have a story accepted into publication.  And with this, my fourth story to find its way between the covers of the Chicken Soup books, I am filled with pride.

CSS Thanks to My Mom front cover

 

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Cleaning out the basement doesn’t yield much discovery these days.  Though we’ve lived in our house for coming on nine years this November, I’m proud to report more items have made their way out than in; even with three girls underfoot.

The boxes my husband and I just can’t get rid of – text books from university- are slowly making their way to recycling.  But it’s hard to part ways with monoliths from biology classes that cost upwards of $100 when you bought them new in the 90s, or a library of Shakespearian plays with your prized notes written in the columns.

Even though I know, like the plays themselves, my notes are timeless and will help future thespians through high school litit’s time to face the music: if I’m not going to crack open Word Carving, Great Stories from the Prairies, or anything that involves dissecting plays, as in theatrical productions, what makes me think someone else under this roof will?

The same can be said for the myriad of tennis, gymnastics and biology textbooks belonging to a certain male member of our household.

Betcha can’t guess what our majors were.

The box I unearthed this afternoon was filled with novels from my teen years. And though none of my girls understood how delicious it was to hold up books written by Eric Wilson, Christopher Pike, and Brian Doyle, they were curious to know what a Choose Your Own Adventure book was like, and were keen to listen to chapter one, book #2, of The Babysitter’s Club: Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls.

CM BOok

Side note: I always related the most to Claudia, the artist, who liked to eat red licorice while she read Nancy Drew mysteries.  Like Claudia, I too drooled over a boy or two in grade seven, so we might wait another year or so before Miss Q dives into the series.

Same with Sweet Valley High, for now way beyond the trio’s scope, but one day I hope they sit with Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield for a summer or two.

And while on the subject of books, there has been a great metamorphosis in our house this summer: Miss Q has turned into a bonafide bookworm.  She’s always enjoyed being read to, but now she’s taking it to an all new level and curling up with a book – alone.

The amazing part isn’t that she’s inhaling books, it’s that she’s comprehending what she’s reading.  “Do you want to hear something hilarious?” she begins, then without waiting for a response, out rolls a detailed description of the plot and crazy characters she’s stumbled upon.

Currently she’s reading the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home Series, specifically: Bruno; but she’s also into the Rescue Princesses and anything with adventure, friendship, magic and mystery.

My husband is re-reading her book two of Harry Potter at bedtime.  They’ve gone up to book four, and now they’re doing it all again.  He doesn’t mind.  Whatever the girls bring him, he reads with little complaint, he’s amazing like that.

Other children’s books on our July radar are:

Meanwhile in adult-land:

My husband is currently working his way through book five of Harry Potter, and has now deemed Harry too angry for Miss Q’s ears, at least this summer.  He really wants to sink his teeth into book two and three of the Gentlemen Bastard Series by Scott Lynch, but had started Harry Potter before he received them, so now he must read quickly.

As for me, I haven’t had much time for reading, not because of the stereotypical obvious; but because after nine years, three babies, and two major re-writes at the suggestion of editors, one of the novels I’ve been chipping away at is complete.

Maybe in August as I’m waiting for a publisher to bite, I’ll have added something more than P.B. Bear to my summer reading list.

What are you reading?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bookcase - CMThe books on our bookshelf have been counted and loosely ordered first by height, and or thickness, then by author.

Though it brings me complete satisfaction to know four tall and seven small Robert Munsch books are filed together, along with twelve yellow Margaret and H.A. Rey (Curious George), and five Mandy Stanley (author of Lettice); this librarian knows that no dewey decimal system, nor sorting hat will keep the carefully ordered rows from running amok when the littles wake tomorrow.

In a world where I worry about being buried alive in plastic high-heels, wheeled hamsters and pony hair, our bookshelf silently expands, pushing my decorative reading pig higher and higher.

There are 531 children’s books on the shelf.  Perhaps the most amazing thing is there are only two duplicates: Clifford Goes to School and Going on a Bear Hunt, though the latter is in both paperback and board book, so sort of different.

Currently, Miss Q is back to listening to Ramona Age 8, by Beverly Cleary and Miss S bounces between the Rainbow Magic Fairy books and anything monkey.  Miss C is pretty happy with anything you choose, though occasionally she wants Rainbow Magic too, like her sisters and then gets angry when you pick Moo Baa La La La, by Sandra Boynton.

We read anything they choose, neither my husband nor I care if we’ve read the book five times or fifty-thousand, as is the case with Interrupting Chicken, by David Ezra Stein thanks to Miss C.  As long as they’re interested, that’s all that matters.

When I read, I’m just as eclectic in my tastes.  I’m not drawn to one author, or one genre, though I leave sci-fi for my husband.  Over the years, I have come to the conclusion that a good children’s book, can be just as satisfying a read as a Giller nominated novel.

With this in mind, here are some highly recommended books from our bookshelf, they might not be Giller worthy, but they’re definitely popular with the under seven crowd:

(click the link to see the cover of the books)

Happy Reading!

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Confession time: I really, really enjoy a buying books.  No, not environmentally friendly used books: previously owned, read once and then shelved in used book stores at a discounted price.  I’m talking, brand new, spine’s never been cracked, smell like heaven books, from the locally owned bookstores in town.

I’m a book snob, I know, I know.  I’ve been suckered in like a crow with an occasional expensive shiny things habit.

It’s not like I haven’t bought books from a used bookstore.  I have; once.  Ishmael, by Daniel Quinn.  It had been well taken care of, didn’t smell like smoke or have food crumbling out of the pages, so I went out on a limb and bought it.

In university, well, used books were a necessity.  Who wanted to pay double for something you could get that may already have some great Hamlet ‘ah-ha’ moment scrawled in a margin?

It’s not like I’m a used bookstore hater.  I actually think they’re pretty romantic.  Imagine an entire building housing old stories just waiting to be discovered.  Stories that writers from the past and present have poured their hearts and souls into, some long forgotten; others on the tip of our tongues.

No matter where they come from, there’s something about the weight of a book in your palm, as you lift it off the shelf that cannot be replicated by electronics.  With each book comes a promise of a new world, a new adventure, or just plain ol’ voyeurism.  (And no, I’m not talking the Grey series, which by the way I was open to, thought I’d love as the rest of the world did, and couldn’t get past the crappy writing of the first book. So it remains permanently in my ‘Do Not Read Pile’.)

It’s no surprise, my personal ‘Books To Read’ pile is larger than my ‘Books Read’ pile, while my lovies’ ‘Books To Read’ pile vanishes faster than I can say, “okay.”

So here is what we are reading these days;

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn.  This is an adult book, and I’m happy to say I finished it last week.  It’s a mystery, so great for fall.  I was literally turning pages at 2 a.m. because Flynn’s characters had suckered me in.  I also had to stop reading some nights because I was getting the heebie-geebies.  It’s about a husband and wife who move to the husband’s hometown and shortly after the wife disappears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Worst Witch, by Jill Murphy.  Well, actually we’re on book two: The Worst Witch Strikes Again.  Miss Q seems to enjoy the series, especially since Mildred Hubble was gifted a cat in the first book.  Come to think of it, she probably wishes she could go to Miss Cackle’s Academy to get a cat of her own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Balloon Tree, by Phoebe Gilman.  With a princess, balloons, an evil Archduke and a magician, what three-year-old wouldn’t love this fairytale?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bus Stop, by Taro Gomi.  A charming little “i-spy” board book that feels like you’re giving your kids a reading comprehension test – but they just like the story.

Happy Reading!

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