I’m going to share about my two most recent bedtime read-alouds with Miss M for this week’s Read-Aloud Thursday, since only one of them was fully a read-aloud. Miss M and I read part of Baby Island together (maybe about half), but I “caved” and let her take the book to read much of it on her own.
Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster is a language-lover’s delight. Milo, a rather bored-with-life boy, finds that a tollbooth has mysteriously appeared in his bedroom. There’s nothing to do but get in his toy car and drive through the tollbooth’s gate and see what happens next. Milo finds himself transported to a strange land with characters like Tock (a watchdog with a giant clock for a body), the whether man, the not-so-wicked-which, the Humbug, and police officer Short Shrift. Milo’s quest is to complete the seemingly impossible task to rescue twin princesses Rhyme and Reason and return them to their kingdom (where their presence has been sorely missed, due to the lack of their namesake qualities while they have been missing).
I love puns and other types of word play. I would seriously consider putting up signs like this. Phantom Tollboth is full of verbal humor. I was a little bit worried early on in the book that Miss M would miss a lot of the humor by not being able to see how various names in the book are spelled as I read aloud to her. I showed her some of the names and explained a few jokes, but I found she was enjoying the book and finding it funny even without me doing this very often.
Quite often I heard Miss M repeating one of her favorite quotes from the book. At one point, officer Short Shrift throws Milo and Tock in jail with a sentence of six million years. However, after a few hours hearing the sad story of their jail-cell-mate (the not-so-wicked-which), they discover they can press a button and leave any time they wish. The which tells them, “Oh, he likes throwing people in jail but he doesn’t care about keeping them there.”
We both enjoyed this book quite a bit. I guess the most hearty recommendation comes from Miss M who spontaneously exclaimed at the end of the book, “That was one of the best books I’ve ever read!”
After finishing Phantom Tollboth, we started in on Baby Island by Carol Ryrie Brink. We read and enjoyed Caddie Woodlawn (also by Carol Ryrie Brink) earlier this year, and I was interested in giving another of her books a try. I saw this title on one of the many book lists I have been browsing lately, and requested it from the library.
In Baby Island, Mary and Jean are traveling on a ocean liner alone, heading to meet up with their father in Australia. They love babies and toddlers, so when the ship seems about to sink, their first thought is of the small children they have befriended. Through a series of miscommunications and mishaps, they end up alone in a lifeboat with four small children, ages 4 months to 2 years. They soon reach an island they dub “Baby Island” and begin the task of raising these four babies.
I found Baby Island to be a light read, and not one that seems to have faired well against the test of time. There seemed to be a lot of dated expressions and concepts that were perhaps common at the time the book was written, or in the recent past. But it seems puzzling today why anyone would think, for example, that “bananas before breakfast are bad for the digestion.”
This story was easily at Miss M’s reading level, and I wasn’t quite as enamored with the story as she was, so when she begged to continue reading the book on her own one night after our read-aloud time was done, I gave in and let her (usually I say “no” because I really want to share our read-aloud’s together!). This is truly a story for children (probably girls in particular) — Especially those who are enamored with babies and delight in the fantasy of living on a desert island with some cute kids to take care of.
I, on the other hand, could sympathize more with how the parents must have felt being separated from their young children for so long (In the book, 12 year old Mary hopes the mom of three of the four kids is enjoying a nice vacation!), and kept pondering how the 4-month-old could possibly thrive on canned mild and goats milk. Of course, no mention is made of having to wash out dirty cloth diapers!
This story doesn’t have the universal appeal to all ages that many of our read-alouds have, but it was a fun story for Miss M to enjoy much of on her own.
I’m linking up with Read Aloud Thursday at Hope is the Word!