*This post was first published in February 2016.
I remember reading books with grown-up themes by about 9. Part of it was accidental–my mom brought home some bargain-bin Mills and Boon romances that landed in my hands instead. (If I remember correctly, she handed them to me!) I also found a YA stash in my class’s library corner, which covered dating, rape, and teen pregnancy. I suspect I was the only kid in the class who brought those books home.
Unfortunately, that early awareness didn’t mean I was ready or eager for proper literature, and I only stopped reading trash in my 20s.
Compared to me, Layla’s a much more balanced individual–she likes a little of everything, and even though she’s super athletic, she also enjoys lounging around with a book. It’s the same for her reading diet; she’s easygoing so she’s happy to let me pick out her books, and open to trying new titles.
Before I list her reads for 2016, here’s a recap of what she read over the November-December holiday:
* The Mysterious Benedict Society (she started with one book early last year, and I got her the rest of the series just before her final exams–they were her stress busters!)
* How To Train Your Dragon (we got her three books for Christmas; she finished them within days and is happily re-reading them)
* Harriet The Spy (I picked this up at the library because it seemed like something she might like, and she did.)
* The Hobbit (We have the illustrated edition, a beautiful gift from a friend! Layla said this was “too long,” so I gather she’s not ready for it although she finished it.)
* When You Reach Me, Liar And Spy (I haven’t read Liar And Spy, but I’ve read When You Reach Me and felt there were certain things Layla wouldn’t understand at this point, such as divorce and race/class issues. But she can revisit these books when she’s more mature.)
* A Wrinkle In Time (I bought this because it was the inspiration for When You Reach Me. Layla said this was just “OK,” am glad I didn’t get her the trilogy.)
* The Phantom Tollbooth (a friend recommended this, I liked it although I haven’t finished it yet! I bought the hardcover annotated version for myself.)
So, 2016. These are some titles that I hope to pick up for Layla. It’s a short list because there’s not a lot of free time during the school term:
* El Deafo
* Inside Out And Back Again
* Where The Mountain Meets The Moon
* Anne Frank: The Diary Of A Young Girl
* I Am Malala
I should mention that I’m still buying picture books for Layla because I think they do a wonderful job of making topics accessible and interesting for any age group. These are some picture books from our collection that she hasn’t read yet:
* Professor Astro Cat’s Frontiers of Space
* Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings
* My First Kafka: Runaways, Rodents, And Giant Bugs (Hoping she can read The Metamorphosis soon!)
* Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff In Simple Words (another lovely gift from a friend!)
We’ve also received some books from local publisher Epigram to review, and pictured above is a poem from “Farrer Park: Rhyming Verses From A Singapore Childhood” by Ann Peters.
I’m a poetry-lite person (i.e. I love Lang Leav, while Paradise Lost is best remembered as a grad school nightmare), so I liked this as soon as I opened it. The illustrations are tasteful, the colours pleasing, and the stories sweet and funny, like this one about Dollah’s father who worked as a cleaner:
His wife, the women all would say
Was so much luckier than they
Getting husbands like this to sweep
Would be enough to make them weep!
But they didn’t know what she knew
And she wasn’t about to drop a clue
She hated all his cleaning sprees
In fact, she’d thought he’d gone loopy!
She wished that he just wouldn’t clean
Where her cloth had already been
And if he really wanted to help
Why hadn’t he fixed that kitchen shelf?
Ann Peters uses words that I haven’t heard in years–“washerwoman,” for one–and she recreates sights that we don’t see anymore, like 7 or 8 people piled into a tiny car. Those were the days where no one cared about seatbelts! She’s probably about my mother’s age because some of her memories are from before I was born, back in the day of “tick tock” noodle sellers and ice balls. But others, I can relate to–we have a few Uncle Govans in the family:
Uncle Govan had a laugh
That sounded something like a barf
You would hear it at a party
Where whisky made him hale and hearty.
I’ve mentioned “strewing” on my Instagram account, where I occasionally post book photos and book-related thoughts. Strewing is something I read about on The Artful Parent, it’s about leaving invitations for discovery around the home, and my version of that is to leave random picture books on the dinner table for Layla to enjoy with her lunch. “Farrer Park” is perfect for that purpose, and it’ll be appearing on our dinner table soon.