So, I know I'm remiss here in my continued non-posting of the promised "Mama Lunch" column, but: I have to write instead about what Birdy and I are reading, because these are simply some of the best books there are. Period. And, oddly, they're all by authors who are much more famous for other books: Roald Dahl for his full-blown ogre-addled magic-infused fantasy fiction; Madeleine L'Engle for her incomparably riveting, weirdo-buoying, sci-fi Wrinkle in Time series; and Joan Aiken for the villain-and-orphan-filled Wolves of Willoughby Chase series which, more than any other books, best represent the time in my life when all I wanted to do was curl up with a book. (Which is different from now how? I guess I mean the very profound 12-year-old version of that.) But these are kinder, gentler books--books perfect for younger kids who are, yes, reading mostly on their own, but who still like to curl up in an arm crook for a pajama-clad cuddle and a chapter or two aloud at day's end. I mention that because these are books that an 8-year old could read alone, but they're strangely tricky in that British/weird-humor/old-fashioned-language way. I recommend reading at least the first two chapters aloud, to acclimate them--by which point you'll be fully engrossed anyways and will want to keep reading.
Danny the Champion of the World by Roald Dahl. A boy and his dad plotting to steal some pheasants really might not sound like your ideal plot, and I understand. But this is a lovely and wonderful book--about a parent and child, about loss, and about the nuanced complexity of right and wrong. "Who are the actual bad guys?" Ben wondered, when he and I read it years ago--but he already knew.
Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle. This is such a delightful, gentle book, and it's got this fantastically smart and observant girl narrator, which I love. An orphan, slow-paced family drama, nice kids, deliciously excellent writing--all the makings of a perfect reading experience, if you ask me. The others in the series are a little "grown-uppy," but I'm sure they'd be great for older kids.
Arabel's Raven by Joan Aiken. A young girl adopts a badly behaved bird named Mortimer who loves diamonds and guitar music and the stairs, which he eats. It's a little like the Paddington series, in terms of wacky misadventures and hilarious hijinx, but it is so laugh-out-loud funny that Ben is always putting his own book down and creeping over to listen. I love reading it because the language is great, the absurdity and chaos are pitched just right, and I am never, ever bored. There are more of them, and I bet they're all good, but we're just finishing this first one right now.
And now: share away. I have *so many* books on my library request list thanks to all your fantastic recommendations last week. I am thrilled. Thank you, as always.