Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Canon

No, not cannon, and not Canon, but canon: That abstruse name we give to the ill-defined body of cultural milestones that seem important to us through the ages.

The Disney juggernaut is inescapable. Plus, after years of reading books to B, we've gotten really tired of some of the insipid stuff that's out there.

However, B is right on the cusp of being able to tackle some really cool stuff. There's plenty, of course, that she isn't ready for. But as a counterweight to more conventional stories, we have decided to slowly introduce B to some of the works that were so formative in our own younger years: the Nerd Canon.

We started with The Hobbit. Poorly executed movies aside, the book itself stands up just fine as a fun and well-structured story. Page by page, chapter by chapter, B and I worked our way through the large, illustrated, hard-bound copy I leafed through decades ago. It took a few months, and like a good radio serial, required some time reviewing the previous night's events before moving on. Sometimes B could manage a few pages, other nights she'd barely last a paragraph. It wasn't the prose - it's just tough for her to stay away while just listening, even if there are occasional pictures.

Not to be outdone, Hilary got a start on The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe. We didn't see it through to the end - the death and resurrection of Aslan seemed a bit much for B right now. Plus, although Hilary and I are learned enough to understand the Christian allegory, neither of us are terribly interested in delving into it with our five-year old.

But that's OK, because now we've moved on the Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. What's that? You say it's The Sourcerer's Stone. Codswallop! (B's new favorite word). We can't get much past the second book until B gets much older. By that point we hope she'll be hooked enough to continue reading on her own.

Halloween came and went. B had some vague notion of being a princess (damn you, Disney!). Hilary suggested a much more badass role model: Princess Leia. "Who's that?" asked Brynna. So then we introduced B to the Star Wars movies. We started with Episode IV, which is historically correct and introduces us to Leia. We continued on, following this suggested ordering: IV, V, II, III, VI. There is no Episode I.

We could go on, but here's where it seems appropriate to poll the audience: what do you think should be next?


Clara said...

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle is one of my favorite young adult books. Though it might be a little bit old for B.

Anonymous said...

We are reading Harry Potter to Reagan and Oscar....

They have also really enjoyed (less part of the nerd cannon but still important kid lit) Roald Dahl books - Matida was terrifying for them but the others have been really super

- Allison

Anonymous said...

Well, there was some discussion about the definition of the nerd canon and whether other less known, but still good titles should be included - the perils of a bookworm marrying the daughter of a children's librarian. The mother in-law was in fact consulted by phone. So these don't all necessarily fall strictly into the nerd canon, but come highly recommended. Without further ado, a list of nerd friendly and classic children's books.

Encyclopedia Brown (brains over brawn every time)
Stuart Little
Little House on the Prairie (series)
The Mouse & the Motorcycle
Runaway Ralph
The Great Brain (series)
Charlotte's Web
Wind in the Willows
The Secret of Nimh
The Borrowers
Also, if you feel really nostalgic about the atomic age, the old Tom Swift books are an option.

Todd & Ellen