Monday, January 18, 2016

Canadian Literature for Reading Aloud: Farley Mowat

I am Canadian, but I am ashamed to say that I am not terribly familiar with Canadian literature. Of course, when I was younger I read (and re-read) Anne of Green Gables and everything else L.M. Montgomery ever wrote. I don't think I get points for that, though, because Anne is known all over the world. I also read some W.O. Mitchell as a teenager.

Maybe my husband is right to tease me for having been homeschooled. "If you had gone to public school, you would have read all these books," he would say. He would be right. My homeschool curriculum came from the USA, and so I was not introduced to the Canadian literature he was introduced to in the Canadian public school system. Even though we had a houseful of books, somehow I missed reading Canadian literature.

It's okay, though. My life is not over yet, and neither is my education. And our boys will read Canadian books and learn Canadian history.

Our first foray into Canadian literature was Farley Mowat's Owls in the Family. This also happened to be the first chapter book my husband read to all of us. (I had been on bedtime reading duty up to that point.) Part of its appeal at first was the Papa factor. For some reason, at our house Papa's reading aloud is much more wonderful than Mama's reading aloud. I don't know why this is, other than that he keeps them wanting more. He does this by abruptly stopping his reading as he nears a particularly exciting or funny part. For a moment there is silence as he silently races ahead, then his laughter begins to burst out. The children are naturally all agog to hear what he's laughing at. He keeps them waiting until he has fully enjoyed the passage himself, then he shares it with them. Our bedtime story time has never been so much fun!

When my husband finished Owls in the Family, he started on The Dog Who Wouldn't Be. Both books are a creative telling of the author's childhood interaction with animals. If the stories aren't exactly how the events actually unfolded, they are at least how they could have or should have unfolded. This evening we read a chapter on various encounters with skunks that had us laughing as we anticipated the inevitable conclusion. Somehow the boy ends up tangled with a skunk in an eiderdown quilt. You can imagine what happens. And this is not the only skunk episode in his young life.

The Dog Who Wouldn't Be is almost finished, so it's time to start looking for The Boat Who Wouldn't Float.

Most of Owls in the Family and The Dog Who Wouldn't Be is set in Saskatchewan in the 1920's. You don't have to be Canadian to enjoy their humour, though. I recommend them for reading aloud to ages seven and up. For silent reading, they would probably be better for ages nine and up. I especially recommend these books for families with boys!