"Hunger Mountain" Literary Magazine
Wise Words from the Children's Poet Laureate

An Abundance of Bananas--and How It Relates to Books

When I was in college, one of my most looked-forward-to activities was studying for classes reading the Waverly News-Democrat, a small-town Tennessee newspaper that one of my friends got in the mail each week. She wanted to keep up with her hometown goings-on, but I loved the reports from a tiny community outside Waverly called Bakerville. My friend knew the Bakerville columnist, and referred to her as Miss Frances. So I did, too. Miss Frances had an eye for detail, never missed much at all that I could tell, and recorded any number of events, like, "The Hunt family visited this week from Chicago, Illinois." (A good time was had by all. Always.) A boy once had a tick in his ear and had it removed at the doctor's office in Waverly. It involved a drive. Others took a trip to Destin, Florida.

Bakerville people and their kinfolks married, moved to far-away places, and passed away, naturally,  but my all-time favorite was when Miss Frances wrote about this: "Today I went to the grocery store, and for the first time ever, there was not an abundance of bananas." Sure, it was a little different from her usual fare, but don't you just know what Miss Frances means? Grocery stores should have an abundance of bananas, and when they don't, well, something is amiss and ought to be noted.

Which brings me to the resident nine year old and books. There has not been an abundance of reading around here this summer. A bit of read-aloud (by me), a bit of Garfield (by him), and some listening to the excellent audiobook version of City of Ember on a car trip constitute the bulk of Junior's literary endeavors so far. There has been an abundance of SpongeBob watching. 

I thought of some remedies to the situation, while keeping in mind that my ideas are not always met by overwhelming enthusiasm.

1. Make read-aloud a more regular event, at a set time.

2. Place enticing nonfiction like The Day-Glo Brothers (by my pal Chris Barton) on Junior's bed.

3. Visit the library with Junior at a time when he is not dead-tired after camp. Let him play Poptropica games on the computer and then suggest looking for books.

4. Wrestle SpongeBob down to an hour a day.

5. Capitalize on Junior's interests. Make a bigger effort to find books on pet garter snakes, which are surprisingly hard to find. The books, I mean. The snake? Not so much.

That's it, so far. I'll let you know how it goes. Meanwhile, if you have additional suggestions or recommendations for a kid who avoids Harry Potter like the plague, I'm listening—because fifth grade is coming up, and an abundance of reading is only going to help.

Comments

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That Waverly News-Democrat sounds so great.

I'm with you on #1. I can attest to its success. I make it a priority to cuddle up and read with the girls daily. I don't always meet my goal, but I *try* to do it daily.

You have a good plan there. I can't think of a single thing to add. Good luck.

Jules, I wonder if the N-D still runs columns like the Bakerville News. I just loved those.

We've had some success already. I read Joy Cowley's Chicken Feathers aloud last night, and accidentally left out a guide to rocks that was picked up and read with some intent. Then this morning, on his own, he'd fetched a graphic novel to read with breakfast.

David Lubar's new book - My Rotten Life - might be his ticket.

Oooh, will look for it. Thanks, Kelly.

Have you tried the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan? My son loved them all and is just waiting for the movie which will be out soon! He has talked about rereading the series before he sees the movie. Yay!

Oh, the first book is the Lightening Thief.

I loved it, too!!

We started the Lightning Thief a year or so ago as a read-aloud, and the kiddo wasn't quite ready for it then. Maybe now, though. Thanks for the idea!

You can find the NEWS-DEMOCRAT here: http://www.eclassifiedsnetwork.com/content.aspx?IsHome=1&MemberID=1247&ID=1692&Module=Quickpage
Sadly, it has changed over the years.
The once highly anticapated full size paper is now only a shadow of its former self.
As a kid I worked for the paper in the 70's, that's when news was NEWS and advertising filled the spaces. Then competition came to town, in the form of a free paper... known as "The Shopper's Guide". Now the News-Democrat is solely based on the space left over after the advertising, as to what is printed.
So, if there's space you can still read about the "real current events".
Years ago my favorite was a column called "Personal Mention" written by Mrs. Billie Gizenhoffer, she was also the county's Veterans Service Officer. Miz Billie's husband's name was Dutch. He was a volunteer fireman, you could always count on seeing the "fire car" in the driveway, They lived on the beautiful maple tree lined Main Street in downtown Waverly, with their 3 kids, Mariam, Francis, and Bilbo......ahhhh.....but that's another story!

Bilbo? Now there's a story! Do you have a blog?

Oh, I am sad to hear that the News-Democrat is less than it used to be. I really enjoyed those columns. You probably noticed that I changed the author's name of the Bakerville News; I wasn't sure that the family would want her name up on the Internet forever!

My own hometown newspaper, Jackson, Miss.'s Clarion-Ledger, is now a Gannett paper, and it is just threadbare. Its "news" focus is mostly on local college sports; to know what's going on in the rest of the world, you have to turn to other sources.

Hi Susan! I'm totally with you on #1. We've been doing read-a-loud chapter books right before bed for quite some time and the kids really look forward to it. We alternate between the interests of a 10 year old boy and the 7 year old sister but both LOVED the Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. The 10 year old has also made it through all the Hardy Boys graphic novels this summer (I say it counts!) Melissa

Melissa! Howdy. I was thinking that y'all were probably at the Cape. Where did summer go?

I should have thought of the Hardy Boys graphic novels. Very good idea.

The current read-aloud is Sideways School Is Falling Down, which is funny. I was hoping that he'd pick it up and read a little more each night. That may have happened once or twice.

There is also a new book in the Bone series-#10, and we made a special trip to B & N to buy it.

Plus, Garfield continues to be popular. Good ole Garfield. Who knew that those books could be read & enjoyed 500 times...

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