Earth and book, that is. On Tuesday Gabriel and I brought our lunches outside and sat quietly with sandwiches in hand, looking about at the still-wintry branches and ground that made a strange contrast with the brilliant, warm sunshine. I suppose this odd winter is supposed to enrage me, evidence of the havoc we have wreaked on our fragile planet. Sometimes it does; more often it unsettles. But when Gabriel looked down and yelped with delight at the sight of a skinny worm wriggling under a dead leaf, I only felt happy excitement: spring is coming. Real spring, with worms and buds and flowers. (Our seeds are certainly getting ready; even after last year's over-reach I can't help but think of more things to start indoors for the garden).
Eventually we waved goodbye, let them burrow back underground, and read Magic Tree House books for way too long, just because it was gorgeous out and we could. These books are Gabriel's latest obsession. The funny thing is, I nearly outlawed them when Frances was first introduced by her preschool teacher. She came home with a book about Jack and Annie visiting the moon and I was downright snobbish. We had but newly entered the Chapter Book Era. I had waited four long years--why would I waste our reading time with mass market crap when Charlotte's Web and Little House in the Big Woods were sitting right there on the shelf?
But that is one of the many privileges belonging to the second child. Mass market crap is overlooked, even welcomed by parents who once turned up their noses. (Mom and Rachel, do you remember Sweet Valley High and Babysitter's Club? I wasn't allowed to read them. Ahem.) In our case, why do I indulge the Magic Tree House thing with Gabriel? Because he's enthusiastic about them, because I feared he'd only want to read nonfiction books for kids about astronauts and baseball greats for the foreseeable future and this turn to fiction cheers me, and because I can read them with both kids. He and Frances both know Jack and Annie (unlike Harry Potter and countless other beloved protagonists she talks about, while Gabriel exudes quiet yet discernable left-out feelings). They like to listen together, and he likes to imagine that they are Jack and Annie, which is downright adorable.
Oh, and I should also mention that the Magic Tree House books really aren't so bad after all. I get it now. Their simplicity is confidence-building for early independent readers and early chapter book listeners alike. And that Mary Pope Osbourne is one smart lady: all of Gabriel's former obsessions are touched upon in the seemingly endless series: knights, dinosaurs, ninjas, you name it.
I love how our family reading habits are gently, sweetly, mutually influential. Frances is less interested in picture books, but we aren't losing that time together because Gabriel has found a chapter book that they both enjoy. Mike has been reading poetry at work, and now also at home with Frances. They read a poem a night from The Rattle Bag.