This is an excerpt from “Funny You Should Ask”, Book 1 in the Life without a Field Guide Series which is available at Amazon. Read it for free with Kindle Unlimited.
As usual, Daughter and Son and I went to the library last Monday. While there, I perused the new books and had a hard time finding anything at all to read, so I browsed the stacks and found a couple of ancient books that looked intriguing but turned out to be more like bible tracts than books when I read them later. Daughter, on the other hand, found a stack of books and was already putting them into her cloth bag when I joined her in the children’s room.
Now, some of my relatives and a couple of friends, have criticized me for not monitoring my kids’ reading material. When I was a kid, one of my late mother’s church lady friends told me that reading the wrong kind of books when you’re a kid leads just one step closer to the Marriage Bed of Satan, a phrase that pops into my mind when Son takes out books with covers that show warrior women wearing the latest in leather bikinis. But I still let them read what they want to read.
Daughter’s reading tastes are, like mine, varied and eclectic, and tend to run in spurts. Lately, she’s been reading a lot of American Girls, Ranger Rick and Discover for Kids magazines, joke books and her constant favorite: animal encyclopedias. Son, on the other hand, enjoys a range of non-fiction, but only sci-fi and fantasy fiction. Lucky for him, fantasy seems to be the genre du jour lately and he also found bushels of books. So we were all booked up and went home to read our heads off.
A few days later, while I was working at the PC and Daughter was reading on the couch behind me, I heard mutters and mumbles and exasperated sighs. When Daughter sighs, work is impossible. If Tolstoy had been blessed with a daughter like Daughter, War and Peace would have been a shopping list. However, I’m not writing War and Peace, although it feels like it sometimes when ideas won’t come, so I turned to her and asked what was wrong.
“Her father’s a jerk,” she said.
“Whose father?” I asked her.
“Elizabeth, the girl in this book I’m reading. He’s really mean. First he’s nice and then he’s not nice. And her stepmother is a wimp. She says she’ll help and then she says she’s too busy to even see Elizabeth. And I think he killed Elizabeth’s mother. Elizabeth thinks so too.”
This did NOT sound like an American Girl. Well, unless the latest AG takes place in Prohibition Era Chicago and Elizabeth’s daddy is a gangster. I didn’t think that was likely, so what the heck was my ten year old reading that had this level of domestic violence in it?
“Are you sure about her father killing her mother?” I asked. “Maybe you read it wrong?”
Sometimes, Daughter’s attention wanders and she misses facts and the odd sentence or two in books, although she’s a very good reader otherwise. This is one of the reasons she learns at home – so that someone else can fill in those little gaps. Like when she read the book about American government, but couldn’t answer the question about why we have an electoral college. Oh wait, that was me! Well, anyhow, she misses things sometimes.
“I’m going to go back to the beginning and read the part where she talks about her mother dying,” she said, “Maybe that’ll help.”
So she did and it helped.
“Yup, he killed her. Killed a bunch of his other wives too. What a jerk.”
“What’s Elizabeth’s father’s name?” I asked.
“Henry Vee or Vie. It’s V-I-I-I but I don’t know how to pronounce it. What a jerk.”
So there you have it, folks. Daughter’s pithy but accurate review of Henry VIII. And they say unschooling kids can’t do book reports. Hah! Later Daughter finished the book and treated me to a scathing, but realistic report on most of the Tudors and a couple of the Stuarts with a short but compelling airing of her views on Phillip of Spain, who was, according to Daughter, also a jerk.
If your daughter or son would like some painless – and actually enjoyable – history lessons, sashay to the shelf in your local library that has The Royal Diaries, published by Scholastic. And if, like me, your library books of the week turn out to be clinkers, the Royal Diaries aren’t bad for a quick read after the kids go to bed. I’ve just finished Kazunomiya, Prisoner of Heaven, Japan 1858 so Daughter will be reading it today. I wonder what public place we’ll be in when she asks me what concubines are.