First thing Sunday morning, E ran into our room and said, “Can we read now? Can we find out what happened with the cougar?” In theory, I suppose it’s my parenting dream to be awakened by enthusiastic cries for reading, but in practice, I wanted a bit more sleep. Within a few minutes, though, all of us were snuggled in our bed. “We need a bigger bed,” Justin said before he started reading aloud the final chapters of Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s The Boys Return.
E discovered this series of books at school (another parenting dream: the boys introduce me to good books!), and he was just delighted as he told me about the cast of characters and their boy vs. girl rivalries and friendships. He seemed to get such a kick out of these families and their stories. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him respond to characters like this, like they were friends he genuinely liked and admired, so I did a little research and found some of the books in the series at our library. He began reading The Boys Return on his own at home, but by the end we were all on board, equally worried about the threat of the town-encroaching cougar.
There are a lot of kids in the book, which can be challenging for writers and readers, but E had them all straight, and would often clarify for us by pointing them out on the cover. Although I’m sure E sympathizes most with the boys, the girls are equally strong, clever, and interesting. That boys vs. girls rivalry is an endlessly entertaining theme for a third grade boy, and I think that’s what E is loving most about these books: they are such good entertainment for him, full of friendly competition, camaraderie, family dynamics, adventures and misadventures, and good jokes.
Laughing together at the book’s jokes is one of my favorite things about reading with the boys. I love seeing what makes them laugh, and how, when I think something might go over their head, the writer’s tone rings true, and cracks them up. Their favorite conversation from the end of the book goes like this:
“Caroline, could you possibly make the effort to forget about ghosts for one night?”
“It won’t be easy,” said Caroline.
“Do you think it’s too much to ask that you stay in your bed until morning?’
“I suppose not,” said Caroline.
“Do you think your father could have one night of peace and quiet before spring vacation ends?” he asked.
“I’ll try,” said Caroline.
“Then get the heck to bed,” said her father, and she did.
Cue the giggle, and then the predictable, irresistible repeat. M, in his best fatherly voice, with a huge grin on his face, said “Then get the heck to bed.” More laughter. And lots of gratitude, for good books and this beautiful little family all snuggled together on this bed that somehow doesn’t seem to small anymore.