In the last few weeks G and I have started to read Roald Dahl books to the Microbe at bedtime. We’ve been working through the thinner ones in his box set, such as Fantastic Mr Fox, The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me, The Magic Finger and The Twits. Now we’re onto Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which is slower-paced and feels like a step up in terms of the language used (it’s occasionally a bit waffly, if I’m honest).
So far they all seem to be going down well with the boybot. Having to wait until tomorrow to find out what happens next has made storytime more fun and I like to discuss the book with J while I’m getting him ready for bed, to see what he remembers from last night and what he thinks might happen next.
I’ve wondered a few times, though, whether the Dahl stories might be a bit dark for a 3 year old. I’m afraid we may be wasting them on him when he’s too young to really appreciate the humour. In certain places I have to take care to emphasise when horrid bits are supposed to be funny – and to tone down some of Dahl’s vicious and unrelenting snobbery towards characters that he considers to be ugly or fat or aspirational or stupid.
There’s also a fair amount of animal peril in the early books, which is ever a sensitive topic around the Microbe and sometimes requires us to have a little chat:
“Mummy, WHYYYY did the bad people kill the deer?!”
He burst into tears last week during a nature documentary in which a baby elephant got eaten by lions. It was gruesome and a very foolish TV decision on my part. He was even close to tears when G told him about dodos, and the fact that they went extinct because humans hunted them all. Cue another conversation…
“Mummy… Daddy told me that the people ate all of the dodos and now they’re all dead”
“Daddy is right.”
“But WHYYYYY, Mummy? Why did they eat all of the dodos?”
“Well… the people ate them because they were hungry and because the dodos were very easy to catch. But it was a long time ago and they didn’t realise that there wouldn’t be any more dodos left afterwards.”
“But, Mummy, that was a sad choice! I LOVE amimals!”
“I know, darling, but humans are much cleverer now and we try to look after animals that are nearly extinct, instead of killing them all.”
Here’s hoping that’s enough of a fobbing-off to keep him happy for a while.
Returning to books… I’ve been gathering lots of good suggestions from others for bedtime reading and we’ve now got a little pile of paperbacks to try out on the boy. So far these include…
- The Owl Who Was Afraid Of The Dark by Jill Tomlinson. This was a set book at my primary school, which might explain the current parental nostalgia for it.
- The Hodgeheg by Dick King Smith. A thin little tome which looks like a fun read.
- Horrid Henry by Francesca Simon. G disapproves of this one but I’m undecided on it myself. I suspect it’s a bit like Dahl, in that the child needs to be old enough to process the humour and not take it too seriously.
- The Magic Tree House (Book 1) by Mary Pope Osborne. Apparently this adventure series is a big hit with younger boys. I can’t say I’m overly wowed by the opening page but I’ll wait and see if the boy likes it.
- Gobbolino The Witch’s Cat by Ursula Williams. Another nostalgia book from my own generation
- The Animals of Farthing Wood by Colin Dann. This reminds me why I love my Kindle! I ordered this online and groaned audibly when I saw the microscopic font size. They’ve compiled multiple books into one paperback – also I think it looks a wee bit old for the boy.
- My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards. I remember my sister reading these stories to me. Hopefully they’ll have some appeal to a boy who’s getting a naughty little sister of his own.
- London Zoo Stories (a set of three) by Adam Frost. These look ideal for the boybot – the reviews suggest that they’re fun stories with geeky facts about zoo animals
- Brer Rabbit Collection by Enid Blyton. Another one from my own childhood – I can imagine the Microbe wanting several of these stories per night.
- Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aiken. Bought on a whim (it was one of Amazon’s “people who like X also like…”)
As a reminder to myself, I’m also parking some other author suggestions below, to look into the next time we visit the library…
- Eileen Bell (Tales from the End Cottage)
- Joan G Robinson (Teddy Robinson books)
- Kenneth Grahame (Wind in the Willows)
- AA Milne (Winnie the Pooh books)
- Dick King-Smith (anything by)
- Michael Bond (Paddington and Olga Da Polga)
- Anne Fine (the books for younger children)
- Atinuke (Anna Hibiscus books)
- Jill Tomlinson (The Cat Who Wanted To Go Home)
- Tove Jansson (The Moomins books)
- Robert C O’Brien (Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh)
- Joan Aiken (short stories)
- Humphrey Carpenter (Mr Majeika books)