Tangled in the pram

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It is the winter school holidays and the visitors are regular despite the icy attitude outside.

I like it when grandparents bring their grandchildren in and try to direct the reading choices. Grandchildren are always polite. But also good at directing Pop away from Biggles and onward to the Treehouse books, especially the 117 Storey Treehouse which is newest.

But I don’t have that Treehouse book. Grandchildren are always polite and encouraging, they say, don’t worry, don’t worry, it’s ok, because we like Minecraft Zombie, too.

This time, they have a pram (with nobody in it), too large to get close to the shelves, so they leave it next to me. It holds loaves of bread, a cactus in a pot, a shoe box, a basketball, a bag of carrots and a walking stick, probably Pop’s.

All goes well until it’s time to leave. The four of them are milling and churning, trying to get out and trying to get the money and Nan is mad with Pop because he keeps arguing about everything and now he says, but I don’t think we need to get any tickets today, and Nan turns the pram sharply, Pop is backed up into the biographies (still arguing)…

But the granddaughters are serene. They each have a book. They are eight and ten years old and experienced in school holidays. One holds the door wide and one angles the pram broadside, out of the door and into the beautiful blue, still holding their books, and one girl leaning forward to keep the pram moving (it’s as big as she is) and still talking and talking to each other. Behind goes Nan and Pop, still arguing and stopping and arguing and Pop trying to work out where the pram has gone.

 

The Mermaid

The Mermaid

Last Wednesday, this family came to the shop.
Two of the sisters searched for books on their knees while the third stood balancing five paperbacks on her hip, neck on one side, reading sideways at a difficult angle, but she doesn’t know it’s difficult. Her sister says, do you have to read these in order and the older girl says: you don’t have to read anything in order, do you, but I would prefer it. The younger child now walks on tiptoe, stooping and stretching, she has one arm in plaster, she crouches and reaches, bows and bends, she is dancing and she says she is a mermaid and her sister says: get out my way, I need The Maze Runner. The younger girl, who is a mermaid says: it’s not here. The sister says: you wouldn’t know.
The smallest child has horse books which she holds on her back, walking bent over, like a horse. Their mother is sitting in front of science fiction, talking on her phone. She taps her knee with a paperback gently throughout the conversation, her daughters are all gone into the other room, the floor is creaking in there with their swimming around and the oldest girl comes gently back past me, she walks leaning backwards, examining the high shelves, looking now for Pittacus Lore, for Dragon Wings, for Storm of Truth. One sister is telling another that she can’t have those books. Mum won’t let. The oldest girl says: is this really The Hobbit? The sisters all return to the front, shuffling, trying to read the cover of the same book. The oldest girl is jumping up and down in front of her mother, holding out The Hobbit, she is mouthing OMG. Her mother nods. Then they are again gathering shoulder to shoulder, the phone call is ending, they are holding books out to their mother in silence. She nods. The mermaid is swimming upwards, her scooping arms annoying her sisters The oldest girl is showing The Hobbit, but the younger girls are neutral, unimpressed, they shrug, the smallest sister crawls under a table because she is a pony, the middle child is spinning around and round and says she wants chips for dinner and carrots plus fish and the oldest sister taps her on the head with The Hobbit, one, two, three times, and the mother is saying that Lord of the Rings is also a great book and then they are all swimming over to pack up and get their books and go home to the sea.

 

Artwork by Victor Nizovtsev

Sally and Jane read The Very Hungry Caterpillar

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Sally and Jane read a book to me last night when I was the visitor. It was The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Sally reads beautifully. Jane helps beautifully. Sally is 5 and Jane is 7.

They are both strong, creative and resourceful ladies!

Sally holds the book and Jane sits opposite and helps upside down. Sally traces each word with her finger, translating the shapes and lines as she goes; she has read this book before and has a rich store of information and experience to keep the ride through the text fluent and meaningful.

They, both of them bend over the page pulling sound from symbols, making sense of sound, interpreting story from sense, a triple rendering.

They both of them bend over the page importing colour, texture, animation, sound, story, humour, pathos and life from the words and the illustrations and now they have made the story into a physical structure of caterpillar, food and cocoon, of hunger, greed and regret, of life and renewal.

Sally jumps from letter to word and across sentences and back again, she refers briefly to illustration and back again to symbols. She follows instinct and memory in a complex play of eyes, speech and satisfaction.

Sometimes Jane prompts too quickly. She is asked gently to hush.

Shhhh, Jane shhhh….

Sometimes Jane prompts too slowly. Then Sally allows her a generous and obvious space in which to insert a sound or a word or a clue.

Quick, Jane…..

They look over the page and over the book as they look over all of life, solicitous, curious and appreciative.

 

 

Twirling

Duy Huynh-www.kaifineart.com-6

There is a little girl here and she is 8 years old. She has placed a copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on the counter and is twirling slowly around and around, waiting for her sister, waiting for her father, waiting for her grandma. She tells me that she can fly.

But her younger sister, who is 4, is causing a consternation. She has rejected every book her father holds out. Though he is hopeful, she still discards every one. It is easy to think that a small child will read any book. This is wrong.

I think that with reading, with stories, in libraries, in book collections, wherever the books are, there is always someone searching, someone concluding, someone triumphant, someone refusing and someone twirling, who can also fly.

Artwork by Duy Huynh

When Emma came over.

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Emma came to visit the other night and brought with her the Fairy Canaries. Their names are Jane and Sally and they are 7 and 5 years old. Tonight they walked all the way to our house which is next door. It is baby night and we have two babies here: Noah and Max and the Fairy Canaries came over to examine them both and see that everything is ok.

They are kind and particular and pay attention to details. They consider every question closely and answer with dignity. I asked Sally how she knew that Max would be a boy and that his name would be Max and she told me that it is because she is magic.

They communicate with joyful rare phrases. When it was my birthday, they did not say happy birthday. Sally said: many happy returns. And when Max was born they told me that they were so proud of the mother.

Once Jane saw me at the fence and invited me to come over and see their shed because their shed is pretty good.

In the summer, I often hear them outside,  shrilling to each other over games with the hose or some sticks or with nothing at all. The games are always complicated and important. Once, in winter when I was in the orchard I saw them through the fence and they called to me significantly that their dog, Tucker, is in love with our dog Maysie and that it was possible that they might get married.

This afternoon Sally picked some little tomatoes for us and handed them through the fence. She picked each cherry tomato slowly, looked a each one,  frowning through her glasses for defects and then dusted the tomato and twisted off the stalk. It took nearly an hour to find twelve cherry tomatoes, as valuable as gold or lollies.

On this evening,  the baby evening, late autumn and with the fire lit and cosy inside, I am giving a bottle to Noah. Jane is standing close by and examining his every feature. She tells me that he is like a beautiful cute little baby troll.

She adds that me must always keep checking him, and all babies, that they only ever have five toes. Because this is all they are allowed to have. The adults are all busy talking and talking so she returns to Sally and the ipad game to offer advice on Subway Surfers but Sally says no no no no no no no no no no no.

Then Jane returns to me and suggests that when I have finished milking Noah, she will have a hold.