Reading Aloud with my boys: the (attempted) Summer classics

I’m baaack! I hope your summer was nice and not too hot (I know it’s still technically summer, but in the office there’s no real season), and that you could enjoy a little break from the routine. How was your summer read? Of course I didn’t get to read and write as much as I had hoped, but it’s the same every year, so I’m not even disappointed.

For the holidays with the boys I wanted to reinstall some read-aloud moment in our evening routine, especially as the boys will have separate rooms in our new home and that they won’t get that time together anymore.  My selection criteria were :

  • a book that would be long enough to be read for at least one week
  • interesting enough to a 3-1/2 and a 9-year-old boys (in various degrees)
  • a classic tale but no fairy tale that would be too obvious
  • no fluff. I have nothing against letting the big boy read by himself about Pokemons from time to time, and I increasingly resist reading aloud Lightning Mc Queen adventures to my little one (call me cruel if you want), but I can’t read mindless kids fluff aloud night after night on *my* holidays.
  • easy to find and thin (cheap would be a bonus)

The problem was that I had about 10 minutes to choose in a bookshop I wasn’t familiar with (in our new town). So I grabbed two classics: Sindbad of the Seas (a.k.a. Sindbad The Sailor, in a new, modern French translation), from the 1001 Nights Tales, and a Middle Ages novel from Chretien de Troyes, because I remember another of his had gone down well when my elder boy was 4 (I wasn’t exactly sure which I had read, but if I could not remember, he would not either).

I expected that Sindbad would be a breeze (why on earth did I have these kind of expectations?) because, well, even Disney has done the 1001 Nights (remember Princess Jasmine?), so how hard could it be?

Well, after I stumbled upon one too many people getting drowned, and beheaded, or impaled, and that I had to find another fate for these poor guys off the top of my head in one second, I started to regret my choice.

I know it’s no advanced literary criticism, but even my boys noticed that every single journey of Sindbad was essentially the same, and that at the end of every tale he had dinner with his mate Sindbad the Porter, said goodbye and see you tomorrow. It’s *not* the kind of suspense that keeps you awake at night. (Maybe it was the point, but the awful shipwrecks and monsters didn’t help putting them to sleep either).

The moment I decided to drop Sindbad (into the sea) was his Fourth Journey [*Spoiler alert* / *Gore details ahead* / *don’t say I didn’t warn you*], when he discovered an unfortunate local custom to bury alive the spouse of a dead man or woman, with only a few days’ worth of food. In that case, Sindbad’s local wife died and he was buried alive in a mountain with her. He only survived because a few days later a wife whose husband had died was also buried in the same cave, and Sindbad bludgeoned her to death, to get her ration of food. Sindbad goes on with this charming method and kills subsequent spouses (male and female, just to be fair) as long as he doesn’t find the exit of this cave. (oh, and there was a picture too! how fun!)

Of course, I didn’t read that part aloud. I think my jaw dropped a little, and I skipped the page entirely. On to the part where Sindbad returns to Bagdad alive and well (without an ounce of guilt), even richer than before, and then he finishes his dinner with his mate Sindbad the Porter, thank you very much. Disney didn’t make that tale into a movie for some good reason, after all.

I’m not sure what is the moral of the Sindbad tale is, but the moral of our summer read-aloud is: beware of hasty choices! make sure you know what classics are made of before you starting to read aloud to your kids!

PS. I was so scared that we didn’t even start Chretien de Troyes. By then the summer holidays were almost over anyway.


2 thoughts on “Reading Aloud with my boys: the (attempted) Summer classics

  1. Your experience sounds a bit like when parents discover that they got a more authentic version of Grimm’s Fairy Tales when they expected something lighter. 🙂

    Welcome back from holiday!

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