With eight year old Little Miss C a fully independent reader I’m soon realising two things. Firstly how much I miss sharing books with her. And secondly, just how few children’s classics I’ve actually read. I have to buy (or borrow) books for her at an astounding rate to keep her in reading material and I keep trying to steer her towards classics. Books that I think it will be good for her to read, as well as ones that I think she will enjoy. She has certain favourite authors (Jacqueline Wilson being top of the list!) and it can sometimes be a bit tricky to get her to try someone new. Michael Morpurgo is such an author.
Born in St Albans, where LMC goes to school, I’ve always been aware of his books, and his role as the children’s laureate, but I have to admit to having never read a single of them. And nor had LMC. Until last week. I’m obviously very aware of War Horse, and knew that there were several books he wrote set during the war, but beyond that I knew little more.
LMC then went to a birthday party last weekend where the children were all given a book as a gift when they left instead of a party bag. The birthday girl’s favourite author is Michael Morpurgo and so she gave them all one of his paperbacks, and LMC came home with An Eagle in the Snow.
With what can only be described as quite an intense and serious looking cover design, I did find myself wondering if she would read the book, as my previous attempts to get her pick up his titles in the library had fallen on deaf ears.
Later that afternoon I crashed out in bed for a couple of hours (late pregnancy does that!) and when I got up again and asked her what she’d been up to she happily told me about how she’d started her new book and how fantastic it was. So keen was she to share it that I was then told I had to read the first two chapters that she’d already read whilst she did her maths homework.
Not one to disobey orders I did just that, and could see exactly why she had been captivated by it.
An Eagle in the Snow
Set in 1940 An Eagle in the Snow is really a work of historical fiction. I don’t want to give away the whole story, but it is set in a train that is sheltering in a railway tunnel having been under attack from German fighters. In one compartment are Barney and his mother. Escaping from the bombing that has destroyed their home in Coventry they are on their way to Cornwall to stay with an Aunt there. Also on the train is a man. A man who seems to know exactly where Barney is from. A man who has an amazing story to tell. A story about his friend Billy in the first world war trenches.
LMC ended up reading the whole of An Eagle in the Snow within the week and she very determinedly brought it back to my house and told me that I needed to read it next so we could talk about it together, and then we also needed to buy her Granny a copy of it so that she can enjoy it too. (Apparently Granny isn’t to be trusted with just borrowing LMC’s copy!)
Again, following her instruction, I have curled up and read the book in just a couple of short sittings, and I can fully see why she enjoyed it so much. It’s a great read. It has taught me lots about a story in history that I didn’t previously know about, and also I thoroughly enjoyed getting lost in a book again.
The power of sharing a book
Finally though, it’s shown me how lovely it is to share a book with someone, even if you’re not reading it out loud to them. For a while now I’ve been making plans to read all those children’s classics that I never got round to and maybe this is the motivation to do so.
Being able to talk to LMC about what she enjoyed most in the book, and how it made her feel has been lovely. Almost like a recollection between the two of us. Replacing something that had been lost when she started wanting to read on her own rather than being read to. It also helps get around the fact that she’s not always staying with me, so I don’t get to sit with her each evening at bedtime and talk about what she’s reading. We FaceTime each night and it’s lovely having books to connect over when we do talk.
Must read children’s classics
My challenge now though is to compile a list of the children’s classics that I ought to read and share with her. In a way the hard bit might be trying to narrow it down to a manageable list. I’m hoping I can get through a few of them though during this late pregnancy insomnia that I’m currently battling. It seems children’s fiction is somewhat easier to get through at 3am than some of the adult classics that I’ve been meaning to read for years!
If you’ve got any suggestions for books that should be on my list though please do leave me a comment below.
An Eagle in the Snow is available to buy online here. Other Michael Morpurgo titles are also available online. On the author’s website there is a very good listing of all his books, split by category, and against each it has a recommended reading age.
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