The Wonder Report: June 10, 2022
Reading Children's Literature
Well, my first week working at my local public library went great! But I’m exhausted. I didn’t realize how tiring it would be to add a small daily commute and keep a more regular schedule. Each day is getting easier, though, and I love the people, the work, and the library itself. Thank you for all the kinds wishes, prayers, and encouragement you poured out to me.
After last week’s monumental Wonder Report, this week’s edition will be considerably shorter. Not only am I adjusting to the schedule of my new job, I’m also still doing most of the freelance work I’ve done for years … just in the evenings after a full work-day. I have to maintain this schedule only through the end of June, but for the short-term, time is feeling pretty tight.
Maybe for you too in this season? So let’s get right to it.
1. Why Read Children’s Books?
Most of Kate DiCamillo’s books are chapter books, which gives me, as an adult reader, at least a semblance of respectability. In form, they look like the other books I read. But when I grabbed Bink and Gollie off the stack, there was no hiding the fact that I was reading a children’s book. Then, of course, my giggling from the sofa as I read was probably another dead give away. These books are fun and funny and I enjoyed them immensely, even though they’re written for kids.
As we get going into this project of reading Kate DiCamillo’s work, it’s dawned on me that some of you may be wondering why we’re reading children’s books this summer. After all, we’re all adults here. And this got me thinking about the larger question of why an adult might ever want to read a children’s book. Aren’t they too simple and silly for our adult attention?
I love what Madeleine L’Engle has said about children’s book in her book, Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art*. A children’s book must be:
“a good book”
“a book with a young protagonist with whom the reader can identify”
“A book which says ‘yes’ to life.”
I don’t know about you, but this sounds a lot like the kind of books I like to read. And it also sounds a lot like Kate DiCamillo’s books, which we are reading this summer.
Here are a few other reasons I think we should all be reading children’s books more often:
1.) They make us laugh. Most children’s books have an element of humor that’s hard to resist.
2.) They give us a new perspective. Since most children’s books have a young protagonist, they see the world differently than we do. It’s refreshing.
3.) They include a sense of wonder that’s hard to tap into in our adult lives.
4.) They remind us what’s important: things like friendship and loyalty and honesty.
5.) They help us face hard things. The best children’s books don’t shy away from the hard parts of life.
You could even say that reading children’s books helps us to foster a childlike faith, something Jesus said was essential in his kingdom.
At about the same time, the disciples came to Jesus asking, “Who gets the highest rank in God’s kingdom?” For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room, and said, “I’m telling you, once and for all, that unless you return to square one and start over like children, you’re not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in. Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me. (Matt. 18:1-5, The Message)
In wonder … do you often read children’s books? Why or why not? What qualities do you think make a great children’s book?
By the way, for some readers, you might even be wondering why you should bother reading fiction. You might be asking yourself, “Is Reading Fiction a Waste of Time?” In a recent Plough essay, Kathleen A. Mulhern, a writer, speaker, and historian, answers that very question.
2. Reading Kate DiCamillo: Bink and Gollie
We’re reading 25 of Kate DiCamillo’s beloved children’s books this summer. Want to read along with us? You can find the schedule here.
I loved Bink and Gollie* far more than I expected. This fun series, cowritten by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee, is marked for early readers ages 6-9, though there are actually very few words in the books. They are a cross between a picture book and a chapter book, and the illustrations by Tony Fucile are an essential part of the reading experience.
Bink and Gollie are two girls who are old enough to cook and walk around the neighborhood on their own, but they are definitely still kids. They love rollerskating, pancakes, and marvelous adventures. They are best friends—the kind of friends who can be honest with each other, even irritable and jealous when they’re together, but they always work things out.
These books are especially delightful because even with few words, the authors are able to fully establish the characters. They grow and develop throughout the series, and I find myself still thinking about Bink and Gollie long after I finished the books. I’m convinced that the illustrations hold a little bit of magic in them, too.
FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Whether exploring the wonders of the state fair, attempting to set a world record, or just relaxing with some pancakes and peanut butter, Bink and Gollie are irresistibly witty, imaginative, and adventurous — just the sort of friends young readers love.
Kids can savor all of their outrageously funny escapades, created by the brilliant pairing of authors Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee with illustrator Tony Fucile.
There are three books in the series:
Bink & Gollie
Bink & Gollie: Two for One
Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever
I found this great Bink and Gollie Teacher’s Guide from Candlewick Press, with lots of activities and prompts around the themes of the book. You can check out Bink and Gollie in this Scholastic Books video trailer:
If you haven’t read the book, you’ll want to skip this section, just in case these questions are spoilers (I can never tell).
1.) How would you describe the friendship between Bink and Gollie?
2.) What qualities about each character are most appealing to you?
3.) Pancakes, roller skating, and the socks from Book One show up throughout the series. What do these add to the story?
4.) What do Bink and Gollie teach us about the rewards and costs of friendship?
5.) Have you ever had a friend like Bink or Gollie? What was the relationship like?
6.) Failure is a common theme throughout these books. What do Bink and Gollie learn from failing?
7.) What do you think of the illustrations? How would the book be different with a different style of drawings?
FOR NEXT WEEK
If you’re reading along, next week, we’ll be talking about The Tiger Rising.
3. Love Your Place: 5 Minutes from Home - The Big Four Trail
This week, my husband and I drove a little less than 5 minutes to one of the trail heads of the The Big Four Trail. The Big Four is a rails-to-trails project in Central Indiana that spreads through three counties and will eventually run for fifty miles.
The trail runs through neighborhoods, towns, cities, wooded areas, and fields. It connects to several parks, golf courses, and recreation areas, too. Because of the trees, bushes, and other plants along each side of the trail, it also forms a wildlife corridor for insects and animals. On the day we walked, we could see lots of nature all around us.
Steve and I walked just about a mile of the trail and then back to the car on this occasion, but we hope to use it more and more. Eventually, it will connect to our neighborhood by sidewalk, which makes us exceedingly happy. It would be especially great for bicycles, so we could see more of the trail in a shorter amount of time. (Now where is that air pump?)
Join me each week for Love Your Place: 0 to 60, where we’ll seek out new parks, museums, restaurants, trails, and more in ever growing radiuses from our homes. Starting with week 1, we’ll find something in our own block to appreciate. In week 2, we’ll find someplace within 5 minutes of our house. In week 3, we’ll venture out 10 minutes. Week 4, 15 minutes, etc. By the last week of August, we’ll venture out 60 minutes. For next week, try exploring up to 10 minutes from home.
Each week, I’ll share my 0 to 60 find here and over on Instagram using the hashtag #loveyourplace0to60. If you’d like to share yours, tag your posts too so I can easily find them. Or you can tell me about them them in the comments each week.
Well, you’ve come to the end of another Wonder Report. Thanks again for joining me. It’s a privilege to share this space with you and to enter into these conversations together.
As always, if you’d like to send me a note or ask a question, you can hit reply and end up in my inbox. Or you can also leave a comment on this newsletter, which will live in the archive over on Substack. I can’t always respond quickly, but I always respond.
Until next time,