Thursday, February 11, 2010

Valentine Stories for the Demented.

I look forward to the week every year. Not because I get showered with all the chocolate I am due, or because I have a secret hankering to create obscure poetry out of NECCO hearts, (which now that I have put the idea in this sentence I really do have a hankering for). I adore this week of love because I get to make 6th graders squirm. I have developed a sure fire reading list for my upper grades that get’s my heart pitter-patting with the mere thought of.

Before I blind you with the brilliance of my read-aloud choices for my three oldest grades let me bemoan my poverty when it comes to valentine fare for my younger crew. Oh I have a few things that the kiddies enjoy. I have series titles in abundance: your Froggy, your Gilbert, your Rotten Ralph, and I’m sure I could scrounge up a Clifford and an Arthur.

For 2nd grade I read Horrible Harry and the Kickball Wedding. If I’d read this for the first time to myself, I never would have given it a second reading, but there is something about this Suzy Kline series that speaks second grader with a perfect pitch. Here is something I forgot: second graders love dumb jokes, especially when put to song. When one character says “I love hot dogs”, and another character responds with “Why don’t you marry one?” The giggles that ensue would gratify late night comics everywhere. When one of the characters sings a song about an unlikely union with the blindingly witty lyrics:

“Here comes the bride
Big, fat, and wide
Harry will marry
A kickball . . . all right!”

Well then, there is rolling on the floor. And the thought that someone their age will marry another someone their age, is an idea worthy of the most fervent mouth-covering, air-sucking incredulity.

All these books are well and good for my students, but if any readers of this blog can throw more dimensional titles for younger readers my way, I would be grateful.

No need to worry about 4th thru 6th however I have that covered.

For my fourth graders I turn to Beverly Cleary. I have stated in several places in this blog my adoration and kinship for Ramona. When stories of love and romance need to be told then why not let Ramona do so in Ramona the Pest. In the chapter, Ramona’s Engagement Ring, the kindergartener swears her undying devotion to Henry Huggins after he rescues her from a misbegotten romp through the mud in her new boots. I think the 4th graders identify with the much older Henry in this book and enjoy the discomfort he feels as he is forced to rescue his little neighbor. They can never believe the audacity that Ramona shows as she yells, for everyone to here, “I’m going to marry you Henry Huggins.”

For fifth-graders I threaten to read slurpy romantic stories to them as they moan and wail and then proceed to break out the ridiculous. I begin with the trickster tale by Barbara Knudsen's Love and Roast Chicken, which has nothing to do with romantic love, but it is in the title. In this South American tale Cuy, the guinea pig, outsmarts the fox over and over again.  Culminating in making him believe that if the fox would only trade places with the trussed-up guinea pig, the farmer would let the fox live out his life eating the Farmer’s chickens, and married to his daughter.

I then include William Bee’s Beware of the Frog. In this dark little ditty, Sweet little old lady Mrs. Collywobbles is protected from a thieving goblin, a smelly troll, and a hungry ogre by her pet frog’s surprising chomppers. This story also has nothing to do with love, except that at one point the frog gets all googly-eyed and sports love thought at a the brand new little old lady frog in his vicinity, which does him no good.

I end with Jeanne Willis’ wicked, Tadpole's Promise. In which a tadpole and a caterpillar fall in love. With these two metamorphosing critters their relationship can’t help but run into rocky patches. With an ending that confirms the view, that predators and prey should not swear undying devotion to each other.

6th graders are treated the piéce de résistance of horrifying dating trauma with a choice chapter from Gary Paulson’s The Shernoff Discoveries. A book in which two Jr. High outcasts try and navigate adolescence without the least clue of how to find success. The title character, Harold Shernoff’s aspirations are described by his friend as “being the first fourteen-year-old boy to win a Nobel Prize by understanding the secrets of the universe, and learning how to dress himself.”

For the purpose of this week I choose to read Chapter 3, On Discovering Interpersonal Relationships. In this chapter we witness Harold’s first date with the lovely Arlene. Harold, being the excellent student he is, prepares for the date, by what else, research at the library. During his research he learns of the methods of Sir Walter Raleigh and discovers some sort of medically oriented manual, which gives him some dubious information about what girls like. Harold does not question when he reads that any girl would welcome having her ear blown into and a tongue inserted therein. Unfortunately Harold misses the ear and scores a different facial orifice, namely the left nostril. Oh you should hear the groaning that ensues! Music to this demented librarian’s ears.