Bridget is reading like... well, like a professional reader all of a sudden. She hasn't shown a tremendous interest in reading beginner chapter books yet (though she did sit down and read a Mercy Watson book from beginning to end on Saturday) but what she is doing is reading picture books with voices. Characters. Expression. Dynamics. A sense of humor. The child knows how to work a book.
All my former speechies and debaters are laughing to themselves right now, because somehow I have given birth to one of them.
On Friday her teacher sent home a bag of guided readers with a book log for "reader's workshop." Confession: I would usually rather poke my eyes out than listen to guided readers. They are generally outdated with terribly thin plots, and poorly illustrated on top of it. However, one of the books in the bag was this one:
If you're not into children's lit, go ahead and skip the next part—I'm going to share this story here in its entirety because it's fun for beginning readers if you have one, and it is completely and utterly unavailable in New Zealand, which is the only place I even found a reference to it on Google. Published in 1988, it's apparently fallen out of favor.
After Bridget's masterful interp performance (she saw me gigging at a few of her voices and took that as me egging her on to get more and more dramatic) we both agreed what a fun story this one was. I looked it over again, and decided that maybe Margaret Mahy was the familiar link—I looked her up and sure enough, she is the author of one of our favorites: Bubble Trouble.
We found this book originally because I am completely enamored with the illustrations of Polly Dunbar, whose quirky, colorful style ranks in my top ten favorites for children's books. However, Bubble Trouble hooked us with its language; it is quirky and colorful and a perfect match for Polly Dunbar. It also features the problem of floating children, which is the thing that got my wheels spinning in the original reader. [Note: there are other Mahy-Dunbar collaborations; Down the Back of the Chair is another of our favorites.] Bridget and I had a fine conversation about what the similiarities were, and how funny it was that we should discover this apparent rarity in her book bag.
After doing a little more research on Margaret Mahy, I discovered that she died this year. It is well-worth your time to read what the New York Times published on the occasion of her death, but here's the beginning:
"Margaret Mahy, an award-winning children’s author who tested the limits of her readers’ whimsy and courage with fantastical tales of witches, hauntings, infinite fog, and robbers brought to account by peppery grown-ups wielding chocolate cake and balloons, died on Monday at her home in Christchurch, New Zealand. She was 76. The cause was cancer, a cousin, Ron Mahy, told the BBC."
She sounds like an extraordinarily interesting woman, this fellow mama of a Bridget who wrote books about "peppery grown-ups and unbelievable situations with believable characters." We have a lot of reading to catch up on in the career of Margaret Mahy, and I can't think of anything she would have probably loved more than a little five year old proudly reading one of her stories complete with voices, characters, expression, dynamics, and a sense of humor.