Sunday, November 11, 2012

Some Good Books and an Impromptu Narration

I was looking forward to book time last night. I had hauled my bags of twaddle to my favorite bookstore to turn in for credit. I came home with a small treasure.

Among the booty was this gem, Princess Nobody by Andrew Lang and illustrated by Robert Doyle. If I was somewhat befuddled by what makes twaddle twaddle, and what makes a living book . . . well living, one look at these exquisite illustrations, rivaled only by Beatrix Potter in my humble opinion, cleared up the matter for me.

I'm constantly amazed by how little I know about books.

Before my children were born, I worked in children's books. I've been reading to my kids for five years. And this snail riding fairy had never before made our acquaintance. But that's the fun of this book seeking business. If I knew all there was to know about good children's books, the world would be dreadfully dull, with no surprise, no secret thrill at what lies between the book wrappers.

But I digress.

For all the book build up, I was expecting an exciting session, Pippi pouring over the pages, taking in all the detail. See, I do that quite a bit. Spin scenarios in my head, building things up so that the actual event could never possibly measure up. So I was more than a bit disappointed when she said she'd rather tell stories than read books.

Tell stories? Come on. Any other night and I'd be fine with it. But tonight. Princess Nobody awaits. Not to mention The Hundred Dresses I'd been teasing her with for days.

Nope. Just stories.

So Pip begged my mom to join us, we turned out all the lights, buried ourselves under way too many blankets, and began. My mom told a story about how my great grandmother and grandfather met on a dance floor, got married, and had a little girl, Fay. A year after they were married, my great grandfather gave his bride an oblong wooden box filled with candy. That box now holds my mother's knitting needles.

My story continued the Old Testament saga. Whispers of a Deliverer filled Egypt's Hebrews with expectation and resigned bitterness. Yochebed had just begun to feel the first birth pangs as the boy child chosen by God turned in her womb.

"We'll continue tomorrow night," I said. I always end on a cliffhanger. I've learned a thing or two by watching shows like 24 and Lost. End with tension, fate of mankind in the balance, the world in flux, and you ensure your audience will return. So I never tie anything up neatly for Pippi. I want her to think and wonder about the story throughout her day.

"Now my story," she said.

"Once upon a time, a long time ago," she began, "a little baby was born, named Joseph. His father's name was Jacob. And Joseph had a whole lot of brothers. And Jacob loved Joseph so much. So one day, Jacob went and bought him . . . a car seat."

"Did they have car seats back then?" she whispered.

"No, they didn't," I said, glad of the dark so she wouldn't see my face.

"So," she continued, "Jacob made a car seat out of a lot of wood, and Jacob put Joseph in the car seat in a carriage that was pulled by a lot of . . . horses. And they rode for many days and many nights until they got to . . . Bethlehem. And a lot of years had passed because the journey was so long, so by now Joseph was a little boy. And he grew out of his car seat. Carriage seat, I mean. I think."

"And while, Joseph was in Bethlehem, he met . . . Momma, who did he meet?"

"Ummm. . ." I fumbled.

"Do you mean the disciples?" my mom prompted.

"Yes, the disciples."

"Matthew was a disciple. And John," my mom offered.

"So in Bethlehem, Joseph met Matthew and John and all the other disciples. And by this time Joseph was an old, old man. Until all of the disciples died. And after the disciples died . . . Jesus was born."

"And then Joseph and Jacob went back home to . . . their home, and there they met Joseph's brother, Benjamin, for the first time."

"The end."

Um . . . wow.

If her narration is any indication of what she has learned so far, I've got my work cut out for me.

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