preparing for riddley walker

Tucker and I have birthdays only a week apart, so particularly on years where a weekend falls between them, we share them. This year we each get a weekend day for our birthdays, which sounds good to me. I had been putting aside money for something for myself and instead paid for Claudia’s Show Choir tuition — frankly I think I’ll enjoy that more.

Tuck’s already gotten his first monthly installment of door-to-door local kimchi delivery, and Béla ferreted out the name of a book Tuck wanted and bought it using my phone. No one loves to give gifts like Béla does. He takes such pride in it.

Tuck’s OTHER gift this year (having perhaps less to do with him than the educational opportunity) is the symbolic “adoption” of either a landmine- or tuberculosis- sniffing trained pouched rat in Africa. In terms of “number of things we can learn about with this one act” goes, it’s the greatest Scrabble hand of all homeschooling. That is, of course, unless you count the gift we chipped in on and shared last year — which we have barely touched yet and which is soon coming into heavy rotation.

This gorgeous, massive, slipcovered, hardbound, illustrated, numbered, limited edition of Russell Hoban’s “Riddley Walker”. In our Laverne-and-Shirley lives this would be our only real joint possession… except we both know it’s for the kids.

We couldn’t start reading last year as “Treasure Island” was still in play. (Even now, we must finish up “The Rabbit Princess”.) But more importantly we needed a lot of preparation for reading Riddley out loud.

My goal was to begin reading near Claudia’s twelfth birthday as the book begins with Riddley turning twelve. And although Tucker and I had both read and were completely blown away by the book, I needed to be sure other people were reading it with kids of this age. They were — often specifically at twelve, to mirror Riddley’s experience. But this was definitely a read-together book, because it would be so hard, sentence by sentence, to be sure the kids were understanding it. Because it is not written in standard English, and written in a post-nuclear apocalyptic dialect specific to the area of England (Folkestone, Dover, Canterbury) where generations of inbred generations of apocalypse survivors live.

It’s not in English. So not only is understanding it contextually a concern, being able to read it aloud takes practice sessions.

I was, also, able to find an open source subscription service which provides summaries, guides and lesson plans for whatever books anyone wants to add. There are about 500 pages of “Riddley Walker” material, and while we will not use all of it, there is more than enough to assure me that the kids are understanding what they are hearing.

Last night they were trying to stretch out watching “The Witcher” on TV by putting on short extras like character analyses. I have some Riddley Walker character analyses for them:

It gets better, really.

Author Russell Hoban wrote some of my favorite young children’s books — I still have my copy of “Harvey’s Hideout”. That “Riddley Walker” came from the same mind is almost unbelievable, especially paired with the fact that is much set in the part of England I know best, and that it has strong — God-like — puppet-related themes.

Psyched.

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