Tuesday, October 04, 2011

All around the Magic Tree House

While Keith and Devyn continue their nightly Harry Potter club meetings, Molly and I are at an impasse.

It isn't that I don't want to read or that we've run out of material -- we don't agree about which book it is that we should be reading.

It all started at the beginning of September when the girls and I visited a bookstore while waiting for Devyn's evening ballet class. Molly discovered The Magic Tree House: Midnight on the Moon (Mary Pope Osborne), brandished the book before me, and declared it The.Next.Book. that we just had to read.

Well, we started it that week but, by Friday, Molly had discovered a book about ninjas from the selfsame series -- and didn't look back.

(You need to know that she did not know what a ninja is (probably because I didn't know) yet she had decided that it would be far more interesting than the book that I REALLY WANT to read.)

"But," I protested, "we're on the fourth chapter! We can't just leave the story where we left it."

"Yes, we can," she giggled. "We just won't pick it up."

I was frustrated and bemused. (And, hey, did she just engage me in wordplay?) Here we were at the end of the month and we weren't moving forward. Each night since we'd read the third chapter, Molly had chosen a different book -- really, any other book -- to make her point that we would not be reading Midnight on the Moon.

"I thought you love the Magic Tree House?"

"I do love it and we can read it . . .If it's about ninjas."

I had to think about it for a while: what kind of reader was she? I reminded myself that I was dealing with the kid who -- I'm not joking -- used to refer to her alphabet books as nonfiction. Then, it occurred to me and I knew why she had lost interest in the book about the moon (a subject close to her) and I've mentioned it before: Molly loves nonfiction and she loves fiction but she's not terribly keen on the mostly fiction-some fact hybrid. The facts (obviously positioned) in the titles that I've read so far in the Magic Tree House lack sufficient detail to quench her thirst. Put another way, the books contain either too much or too little of the factual to keep her reading.

But, why ninjas? Like any four-year-old, the kid loved and still loves mystery and learning. The world of the ninja had yet to be explored at that point, but I sense that, just as she dismissed both Dinosaurs Before Dark and Midnight on the Moon, she will grow bored and we won't finish the book about ninjas.

After weighing the options, I don't think I should interrupt this emerging pattern because she gets something from her approach-retreat relationship with the series even if I don't know just what that would be. (It may be that she has yet to figure out that each book in the series will be similar in style; maybe she is optimistic).

On the other hand, I recently picked up one of the companion research guides that is available in the series which, I'm confident, would provide the missing facts that Molly wants. Then, the next time that she dismisses a Magic Tree House book, I could reach for a guide and see if that sustains her interest.

Who knows? I just want to avoid the mother-child morass of guidance vs. intrusion because I've learned my lesson with Devyn. Please note that I am patting myself on the back because I haven't pushed the issue of reading these books in sequence (though I really, really want to) because that's my thing, not theirs.

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