by A.A. Milne
I can remember when I moved on from short picture books to more substantial reading volumes. Chapter books, some lightly illustrated and some not, and bigger worlds beyond The Poky Little Puppy made my imagination go into overdrive. Ever having trouble sleeping, I’d stay up late reading, congratulating myself on how many books I could finish. Stories and music, I couldn’t get enough of them. Somewhere in between came poetry. Though I sometimes succeed in what I feel is “intended” reading of poetry — understand and deriving meaning — I frequently feel like poetry is a language I never properly learned. It operates on a level I’ve yet to fully reach, though that didn’t stop me from subpar attempts at writing it myself. I know that there are all sorts of arguments to be made about “there is no right way,” just as there are so many variations on the poem itself.
For my daughter, a lover of books since birth, I’ve wanted to start that education earlier. On a recent trip to Seaside, Oregon, at a small bookshop with a cat, I picked out Now We Are Six. She turned six years old in March, and has been reading for a few years now. I thought she’d get a kick out of the title, and the words were entertaining and understandable, which made it a good candidate for her first book without much illustration.
When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.
Most nights, we would read together, and I can tell you that between my reading selections before bedtime and her reading the rest on her own, we’ve both read the book several times over by now. I must admit I tire of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh at times — something about the way he intentionally mispronounces words bothers me, as does Christopher Robin. I know that’s childhood sacrilege, but it’s true. My daughter only knows the Disney version of Pooh, however, so I was quick to remind her that the author of her new book had work of which she’d heard. Though she found it momentarily interesting, she instead flipped to a new page and said, “Start here tonight.”
We went to all the places which a beetle might be near,
And we made the sort of noises which a beetle likes to hear,
And I saw a kind of something, and I gave a sort of shout:
"A beetle-house and Alexander Beetle coming out!"
— From “Forgiven”
It’s a cute book, and it’s long enough that you won’t be talked into reading the whole thing before bedtime in one sitting. Three poems here, five poems there — It’s fun to get back into the rhythm of reading poetry aloud.
We only have so long to strongly influence our children’s interests before other elements start vying for competition. I can only hope that the love of books, of music, and of art never fade.
This review is part of Pajiba’s Cannonball Read challenge, in which participants attempt to read and review 52 books over the course of one year. The challenge ends October 31, 2010.