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Improvement makes straight roads; but the crooked roads without improvement are roads of genius.

— William Blake


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Sunday, February 6th, 2005

Chapter book

Sylvia has recently gotten interested in the idea of reading chapter books. This is good news for me because I am interested in reading chapter books with her. The first one we read, last week, was a not very well-written or thought-out book about two children who discover a magical tree-house that enables them to travel back in time, apparently part of a series, this one has them go back to prehistory and interact with dinosaurs.

On Friday I bought Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollboth, which is one of my favorite books from my own childhood. I was not sure whether Sylvia was quite ready for it but figured it was worth a try. And it seems to have been a good choice -- we have read 2 chapters so far and she is paying very close attention.

Paying attention is a major topic of the book and I am having the feeling while reading it, that I should have taken it more to heart when I read it as a boy; or that I should have reread it around the time I started to forget it, in my early twenties. Not paying sufficient attention is a big part of what I have been doing wrong in the past ten or so years. Seems like it should be easy enough to change back... Hoping my facility to pay attention has not atrophied from neglect.

posted evening of February 6th, 2005: Respond
➳ More posts about Norton Juster

Friday, February 11th, 2005

The Phantom Tollbooth: Tonight we will read Chapter 6, the story of Rhyme and Reason as told by Faintly Macabre. Sylvia is maintaining interest in the story and remembers the characters and situations from day to day.

posted afternoon of February 11th, 2005: Respond
➳ More posts about Readings

Wednesday, February 16th, 2005

The Phantom Tollbooth -- we read Chapter 9 tonight -- Sylvia is really enjoying the characters though I'm not sure how much of the plot she is getting. Details which captivate her: the sisters named Rhyme and Reason, which are not proper names like Sylvia or Emily; the dog mistakenly named Tock even though the sound he makes is tick-tick-tick; the box given by King Azaz to Milo, which contains all the words that will ever be used -- this last reminds me a bit of Borges' Library of Babel and I wonder whether Juster had that in mind.

posted evening of February 16th, 2005: Respond
➳ More posts about Sylvia

Thursday, February 17th, 2005

The Phantom Tollbooth -- we read Chapter 10 tonight, "The Symphony of Color". It has nice resonances with two other books, "The Philharmonic Gets Dressed", which we read for bedtime story fairly often, and "Zin Zin Zin! A Violin!", which we read less frequently; and with Fantasia, which we watched a few weeks ago -- this last I suspect may have been Juster's source for the chapter, some of his imagery reminded me very strongly of the film.

posted evening of February 17th, 2005: Respond

Friday, February 18th, 2005

The Phantom Tollbooth -- tonight we read Chapter 11, "Dynne and Dischord", or rather we read about half of it and Sylvia fell asleep. Funny that Juster worked in two consecutive "Fantasia" references -- the end of Chapter 10 referred (so think I) to the Toccata and Fugue in D Minor segment of the film, and the beginning of Chapter 11 referred (less arguably) to the The Sorcerer's Apprentice segment.

posted evening of February 18th, 2005: Respond

Monday, February 21st, 2005

The Phantom Tollbooth -- last night and tonight we read Chapter 12, "The Valley of Sound". More synaesthesia in this chapter; it reminded me again a bit of Fantasia, but moreso of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" -- the Soundkeeper struck me as very reminiscent of Willie Wonka, with her cloistered and volatile persona, and the sound laboratory would have fit right into Wonka's factory.

posted evening of February 21st, 2005: Respond

Tuesday, March first, 2005

Bedtime Stories

Tonight we had a double-header of Chapter 19 of The Phantom Tollbooth and The Red Balloon by Albert Lamorisse. Sylvia really surprised me while we were reading Chapter 19 (in which Rhyme and Reason return to the kingdom of Wisdom) by remembering who Officer Shrift is -- a character who has not appeared since the first quarter of the book, and then only very briefly. This reinforces to me that she is experiencing the story primarily through the characters, though I'm not sure just what to make of that.

I was glad to read The Red Balloon -- it is one of my favorites and I've suggested it a few times before, this is the first time she took me up on it. It makes a very nice bedtime story, particularly in the cold of winter.

posted evening of March first, 2005: Respond

Thursday, March 17th, 2005

Bedtime Stories

Our venture into chapter books continues apace -- two nights ago we finished Winnie-the-Pooh, last night we started Just-So Stories.

posted morning of March 17th, 2005: Respond
➳ More posts about Just-So Stories

Monday, July 11th, 2005

Bread and Chocolate

Our reread of The Phantom Tollbooth stalled around Chapter 17, because of the presence of Demons -- ever since about when Milo was in the Forest of Sight, Sylvia has been asking with trepidation, "Are there Demons in this chapter?" most every night, and I would reassure her that there were not any yet. But once we got to Chapter 17, where there are Demons, Sylvia did not want any more. I tried encouraging her a bit to stick it out through the scary part in expectation of a happy ending -- one indeed which she is already acquainted with and had talked about in earlier parts of the book -- but I did not want to lean on her about it.

So, we have moved on to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Yes, we are reading this partially in expectation of the new movie that's coming out -- we watched and enjoyed the Gene Wilder film and are looking forward to the new one.) I'm a little surprised because Sylvia didn't think too much of James and the Giant Peach, which I always thought was pretty similar; I guess the addition of Chocolate makes all the difference. She is crazy about this book.

We have decided to try making chocolate candies as a cooking project while we read this book. I have not made candy for several years, but last time I did they came out pretty well. I think the addition of Sylvia's enthusiasm will be helpful. Also tonight she said she wants to bake Challah bread with me, another thing I have not done for a long time. (Maybe ever? I've made egg breads but I don't know if any of them were specifically challah.) So -- looking forward to the kitchen stuff, I'll let you know how it goes.

posted evening of July 11th, 2005: Respond
➳ More posts about Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Friday, December 9th, 2005

Echoes

Bedtime stories for the past week or so have been chapters of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Reading Chapter 11 tonight (in which the children and Mr. and Mrs. Beaver begin their journey to the Stone Table and meet Father Christmas), I realized the narrative is reminding me a lot of The Phantom Tollbooth. It struck me while Father Christmas was giving his presents to the children, that that was like Milo getting his presents from the Mathemagician and Azaz -- and thinking about it, I am sure Juster modeled his book in some respects on Narnia.

I read all of the Narnia books when I was quite young, and possibly had some of them read to me; my memory of them is faint but I do remember liking them. I am reading to Sylvia from a very nice edition that we bought when we visited the Eric Carle Museum in Amherst, MA. A really great discussion of the Narnia books has been taking place over the last few days in the comments to this post on Unfogged.

posted evening of December 9th, 2005: Respond
➳ More posts about The Chronicles of Narnia

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