Two goldfish? Or . . . your Dad?

Author and illustrator Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean are a brilliant team. Their book, The Day I Swapped my Dad for Two Goldfish had that amazing silencing power over my classroom – so engrossing that at times there was not a word! And then at other times, volume turned high in discussion and debate – on task talking! Yippee!

Day I Swapped

This book in and of itself is pretty darn amusing. The conversation and comments it inspired in the classroom – hilarious!

Nathan comes over with two goldfish in a bowl. They were pretty neat – reddy-gold and beautiful swimmers. A swap is proposed. The problem – Nathan isn’t interested in anything offered, not the transformer robots, the annoying penny whistle or the punching bag. So some deep thinking happens: “I’ll swap you my Dad.”

Whoa!! This caused quite the commotion in our room. Nathan, back in the book, was sceptical. One Dad for two goldfish doesn’t seem quite right until it is pointed out that a Dad is as big as a hundred goldfish. And he can swim (“Can’t” protests the little sister) So Nathan leaves with a newsparer reading Dad and the two goldfish remain.

So I ask: What do you all think? Is it a fair trade? I love how they take this question absolutely seriously!

Kevin: “No! A Dad is more useful than goldfish.”

Hajhare: “A Dad is more valuable, he grew up with you.”

Jeremiah: “But he still has his Mom.”

Hajhare: “Nope a Dad is not available.”

Alyson: “Without the father, you can’t have another baby.”

Lisa: “The Mom will be pretty surprised when she gets home.”

And of course Mommy says, “You can take these goldfish over to Nathan this minute, and don’t you come back without your father.”

But this is a little bit more difficult than first seems because Nathan has done some more swapping.

Alyson: “My Dad is more expensive.”

My important clarifying question: “How much is a Dad worth?”

Hajhare: “Love!!”

Ricky: “Dads have mastercards.”

Kevin: “Why don’t you ask a Dad to buy you goldfish?” Indeed!

We began to think this swapping might not end. There was much more searching following the trail and a gorilla mask, Galveston the rabbit and the Queen of Melanesia enter the story. Finally the Dad is recovered still reading the paper and sitting in a rabbit hutch.

Hajhare: “I think the message is Moms are all about love and Dads are about newspapers.”

Manny: “No that’s not the message. It’s – don’t let kids trade people.”

Whatever the message, this book is an adventure worth reading. (Preferably out loud to some opinionated children 🙂 )

Spooky suspense on Saturday afternoon

We did our weekly trip to the library and came back home with piles of books as usual.  Everyone is sick and wanting to be entertained so we pulled the blinds, turned on a little reading light and settled in with some scary books. All we needed was a tiny light in a dark room, a whisper voice used here and there, some well written suspense and dramatic illustrations and things got scary fast!

Wolves in the Walls

Neil Gaiman and illustrator Dave McKean teamed up again (they also brought us Coraline) to create this dramatic, quirky and quite scary tale.  Lucy heard noises . . . coming from inside the walls . . . and is sure there are wolves.

By the end of the book – some things change – Who lives where? Who scares who? Who is living in the walls now? It is quite the adventure to find out.

the banshee

Eve Bunting takes us on a “catch your breath, feel your heart beat faster” journey through the pages of The Banshee (spookily illustrated by Caldecott Medalist Emily Arnold McCully). What makes the “Scree  Scree” sound that wakes Terry in the middle of the night? Does he really have to go out into the garden to find out?

“I open the back door. The kitchen heat rushes out, and the night rushes in. I can’t go into that dark yard. Where she is. I can’t. I go.”

These two books allow us to explore some big questions in the minds of young readers:

What is it to be brave?

What is superstition? legend? folklore?

Do we believe what people tell us?

How do we confront our fears?

And the scariest one . . . “Is there really a . . . ?”