"Grendel's plan, I think, will be
What it has been before, to invade this hall
And gorge his belly with our bodies. If he can,
If he can. And I think, if my time will have come,
There'll be nothing to mourn over, no corpse to
For its grave: Grendel will carry our bloody
Flesh to the moors, crunch on our bones
And smear torn scraps of our skin on the walls
Of his den. No, I expect no Danes
Will fret about sewing our shrouds, if he wins.
And if death does take me, send the hammered
Mail of my armor to Higlac, return
The inheritance I had from Hrethel, and he
From Wayland. Fate will unwind as it must!"
(Beowulf, lines 442-455, translated by Burton Raffel, Signet Classic edition)
Emperor seems to read well enough. It is not his favourite subject, but he likes Beowulf a lot. "It's very pretty," he tells me. "I like writing that is beautiful and has a lot of adjectives in it. This lets me know what is really going on."
Yep. There's really no mistake about what's happening in literature like this, and the character motivation doesn't seem to be so deep or introspective as many tales marketed to children seem to be. It's understandable to Emperor in a way standard "kid" literature is NOT. He has a lot of trouble with your usual kid-fiction.
Emperor is currently being tested by our school district to see if he needs any sort of special services. Lately the tests they have been giving him are reported to be boring. Emperor tells me they had him read and answer stories about some child and a dragon. "But, the story had no taste to it."
No taste? Surely my kid isn't getting all highbrow and pining for classic literature only? I asked him a few questions about the readings he was supposed to do. One is about a dragon and a small town, he told me, rolling his eyes. Well what about it? "Four letters," he said. "L-A-M-E."
Stories about odd creatures such as dragons and Grendel and Orcs and what-have-you are usually very exciting!
Ughhh... Emperor explained that this one is about a dragon that steals people away from the town. Everyone was scared and didn't know what to do until some little kid went off to find out what the problem was. "And ALL SHE NEEDED TO DEAL WITH THE DRAGON WAS A MAP AND SOME FOOD."
As if this weren't insulting enough to the reader's intelligence, Emperor reports that the kid brought along as her companion some fluffy thing called MISTER FEATHERS. Here I got another good eyeroll from him at the stupidity of the story.
"Mister Feathers and the girl find the dragon and then they just TALK with the dragon. The dragon tells them he is picking up all the people to save them from the avalanche that will be destroying the town soon." He shook his head and put his hand up to his brow as though the whole ordeal were painful to recount.
"The story just sucked, Mom."
Well, maybe it did. I don't fault the school for having sucky stories during the testing process because I'm thinking that it might be a test to see if the child is able to remain calm and polite under duress or something. (I dunno.) Usually these "tests" have a hidden objective and the thing you think you're getting tested on isn't the thing they're really measuring.
But on the whole, I hear boys are "behind" on reading. I wonder at us as parents for not having better literature choices than the Junie B. Jones series in our personal family libraries. Sorry, I hate those. They are just WRONG.
Am I the only one with reading pet peeves? Looks like I passed mine onto my children somehow.