“Rhyme elves, rich in ringing words
Won from winds and waves and birds,
Lisping leaves and rustling rain,
Sing – sing – for me again!”
We’ve finished our latest chapter book, Kitty having been persuaded to let the bookmark move forward on the production of our next bedtime story book, and I’m so glad I get to share it with you. We’ve been reading the Seven Year Old Wonder Book since March and it’s such a lovely book, I’ve been desperate to jump the gun and tell you all about the bits of it we’d read so far, but I’m glad we held on because now I can tell you about all of it.
The Seven Year Old Wonder Book is a book of stories within stories within stories. On the first layer it’s the story of a little six year old girl called Sylvia, who lives in a little white cottage in the woods with her mother and her teddies. She lives a happy everyday ordinary sort of life, gardening with her mother, climbing trees, playing with her friends and chatting to the village woodsman, but at the same time her life is full of magic and a sprinkling of fairy dust. There’s Sister-in-the-Bushes who helps Sylvia when it looks like she might slip and fall from the tree, and who tells wonderful stories, a little imp that entices her into the Dark Woods when she knows she shouldn’t, and a beautiful visit from St Nicholas himself.
And then within each story about Sylvia comes the story that she’s told; a bedtime story from her mother or a fireside Christmas tale from Sister-in-the-Bushes. They’re fairy tales I suppose, stories of knights and kings and princes, and people who are kind and good and people who make mistakes and rectify them. But although I thought I was fairly well versed in fairy tales and legends, even of the non-Disney variety, they were almost all new to me, and lovely too. There’s Kind Cordita who frees the men from the ice and eventually wins the King’s Son, or the Tree that Dreamt a Flower and brought a star to earth with wishing.
They are the stories where the words paint pictures in your head, there are a few illustrations but this is a book for your imagination and because of that they make perfect bedtime stories.
And then if the girls are still awake after Sylvia’s story and the fairy tale then each chapter finishes with a poem based on the fairy tale. Sylvia leaves her Wonder Book open each night for the rhyme elves to fill and says the rhyme for them and every morning she takes the book to her mother and together they enjoy the new picture and her mother reads the poem aloud.
But to be honest quite often the words and the lullaby of a good story have worked their magic and I close the book and sneak quietly away and save the end of the story for the morning.
In short it is a book that is utterly timeless and unfailingly lovely to read and to listen to, and it is a mark of just how much I like it that I’ve been horribly tempted to borrow it from the girls for an evening to read ahead and find out what happens. I resisted though, and it was lovely to discover it all together.
And now we are in need of a new chapter book, with Little House in the Big Woods a popular contender as well as another Isabel Wyatt collection of tales and legends, and Kitty making a determined request for another Paddington book. And though we love our picture stories I don’t think we will go back to picture books at bedtime unless we’re especially asked, I love our evening read together and the more I think about the stories I loved as a child, the more I remember and add to the mental list of books I absolutely must remember to share with Kitty, Elma and Pip.
But for now that list is going to stay in my head and this is going to be my last What We’re Reading post, at least for a little while. Almost two years ago I wrote my first What We’re Reading post about another timeless classic, Pip Squeak (how small are Kitty and Elma in those pictures!) and since then I’ve shared close to a hundred of our family favourites, and learned about easily a hundred more, and placed several Amazon orders at top speed as a result. We have a booklist of the cream of pre-school stories and I’m grateful to everyone who has joined in along the way.
I don’t think I will ever stop loving children’s books; the stories, the illustrations and the ingenuity that has been put into some of them are truly amazing, nor I suspect will I ever be able to resist the temptation to add a little something to our family library. But the bookcase is creaking at the seams and with the move into chapter books we’re not reading new stories as fast as we once were. It’s time to end, on a high note with one of my most favourite ever of all the books I’ve talked about.
So for the last time, if you have a story that you love, tell me in the comments, or leave a link to your blog post or Instagram, and if you have ever shared a story with us, thank you, thank you thank you.