Seriously, though, I couldn't take that condescension. I think attitudes like that sell our kids incredibly short. Okay, so in the world today probably very few of us let our kids run around the neighborhood without a clue where they are -- yes, my generation has a whole lot of hypervigilence going on. But still, I think kids have the ability to extrapolate, and I daresay they won't chuck a book across the room if a character is listening to a phonograph or delivering newspapers sans grownups.
At least I hope they won't because if they do toss away books like that, kids would miss out on gems like today's pick, The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague. We love Mark Teague for his integration of diversity into his books, seamlessly and consistently. In the book, Floyd and Wendell make their own way to school -- wait for it -- walking! Without their parents!
Are you still with me? Whew! So the two boys are chronically late, and their teacher Ms. Gernsblatt is getting fed up with their silly excuses about being detained by pirates and so forth. (Readers see the scurvy naves; Gernsblatt does not.) On Thursday the boys are determined not to get into trouble, leaving very early just to be sure. For good measure, Wendell suggests they try his secret shortcut. Floyd's a little dubious, but he gives it a whirl - and very soon the two boys are off into the most harrowing adventure of the whole week, complete with crocodiles, a rocky gorge, and swinging like monkeys from vine to vine.
The Secret Shortcut is such a fun read, with a whole lot of tongue-in-cheek humor that parents will love (kids might need to be clued in to the joke). Ultimately the boys do reach their destination, somewhat the worse for wear. Sprout's favorite part is when Floyd and Wendell land in a puddle of mud, a scene that's captured with Teague's trademark sense of whimsy. You can't really appreciate this one without looking at the pictures, as this is a title where illustrations and printed word join together to convey the whole message. Overall, this is a good choice for preschoolers who are beginning to get the sense that the world they see may not be the same as the one adults live in, after all.
If you want to spare your kids the trauma of reading about unchaperoned exploits on the way to school, pass this one by. Please. Because if you do, it's all the more likely to be there on the library shelf when we're in the mood for something lively and oh-so-imaginative.
The Secret Shortcut by Mark Teague, published by Scholastic
First lines: "On Monday, Wendell and Floyd were late for school. / They had nearly been captured by space creatures, they told their teacher. "Ridiculous," said Ms. Gernsblatt, and she warned them not to let it happen again."
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