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Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pride of Baghdad takes Marshfield Avenue by Storm

Last Tuesday I took a timeout in the middle of the work day to return a pile of books to the Back of the Yards branch library and peruse the shelves for my next big haul.

At the last minute, I stumbled across the graphic novel Pride of Baghdad and just thought the premise--that the bombing of Baghdad set a pride of lions free in the middle of a war zone--was so mind-boggling I had to take the book home and see what my Marshfield buddies would make of it.

I walked back from the library just in time to catch the end of the day pedestrian traffic at Chavez. One of the Brady families was walking home with their mom. I caught Middle Brady Boy, showed him the book and asked if he wanted to borrow it. He said yes.

On Thursday afternoon he was done. "Do you want your book back?" he asked.

Wow, I thought, that was fast. He either loved it or he hated it. I was on my way out and knew he wouldn't catch me until the weekend, so I told him to hang on to it for a couple more days.

This afternoon I caught up with him. His little brother, Brady Bughunter, was in front of the house and I asked if he could go tell his brother I was there. Middle Brady Boy promptly arrived with the book.

"Did you like it?" I asked.

"Yeah!" he said.

"What happened to the lions? I didn't read the whole thing."

He proceeded to walk me through the ending, reading me parts and flipping around in the last section to explain everything. I'll try to keep the spoilage to a minimum, but let's just say it's not a happy ending for the lions. Middle Brady was super-enthusiastic in the retelling, and I got a great chance to listen to him read out loud. (Teacherly note: He and Sarah both just mumble their way through words they don't know and keep right on going. It's cute and I don't want to break the flow, but I've been trying to figure out sneaky ways to pronounce and/or discuss the words that are unfamiliar to them in hopes the information will stick surreptitiously.)

So he really liked the book. So did his big brother. Oldest Brady Boy rode his bike past my house just after I had walked in my front gate. "Hey, did you read this book, too?" I asked. He said yes. "How did you like it?"

"I liked it," he said. "It was cool."

These ringing endorsements led me to offer it to Sarah, who is interested in all things animal, too. "The ending is really sad, though," I said. I felt like I had to warn her. The illustrations do not pull their punches in terms of warfare, blood and guts. I'm back to the same inner argument I have with myself all the time: the inner kid who loved to read and still thanks the universe regularly that her parents had the wit not to censor her reading fights with the inner grownup who worries that the neighbor parents might think badly of her for bringing their children bloody tales of warfare and death or whatever the hot button the reading selection pushes is.

Tonight Sarah read me some of her favorite parts of a book she picked up at school. I don't remember the title or the author, but it is a comic writer's memoir, done so it looks like a lined journal. The book mixes short narratives with mini-comics. It's all about the miseries of elementary school, and it is keeping Sarah in stitches even though she's mumbling her way through some unfamiliar words as she goes. I'll get the title from her sometime soon and let you all know. Her report on the planets is pretty far along--she got up to Uranus on her own and her teacher said they could have time in class to finish tomorrow. She did a good job picking out the interesting bits for her summary. I gave her one spelling word of the day: distance.

If you're curious about Pride of Baghdad, this link will take you to Amazon.

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