Saturday, September 02, 2017

Short Stories

When he was little, I would read bedtime stories to Oliver. It was board books. Olivier Dunrea's sweet Gossie and Friends books. We're Going on a Bear Hunt. There was one called Sometimes I Like to Curl Up in a Ball that I loved reading to him.

He got older, and graduated to longer books. Picture books. When You Give a Mouse a Cookie, stories like that. Or Winnie the Pooh stories. Anything by Mo Willems.

A couple of years ago, we made the transition to Harry Potter. We'd read eight to ten pages every night. We started at the first one and read all the way through the final one, which we finished last year.

That was fun. Because I don't read a lot of the books he reads. He loves Christopher Paolini's Inheritance Cycle, but I haven't read those. I read one or two of the Percy Jackson books, but that was it. This way, I got to read what he was reading.

While we were reading Harry Potter, I was discovering them along with him. I was learning the plot twists with him. The horror of Delores Umbridge, the dark secrets of Severus Snape, the nobility of characters like Luna Lovegood and Neville Longbottom. I got to share that experience with him.

After we ran out of Harry Potter books, we've been trying to find something else to fit the gap. He loves Randall Munroe's What If? book, as well as the accompanying blog, so we read out of that sometimes. They're not stories exactly, but he loves the different scenarios.

Lately, I've been introducing him to short stories.

I started with Neil Gaiman's short stories. I have two of his collections - Trigger Warning and Smoke & Mirrors. I've been reading the stories that I knew were safe for him. Some of them were right on the edge of comfortable for a 12-year-old. (I hesitated for a while before I read him "When We Went to See the End of the World by Dawnie Morningside, Age 11 1/4." There's a scene of the girl's father striking his mother, and that worried me. He wasn't bothered by it.)

I branched out from there. I found Kelly Link stories and Aimee Bender stories. I read him "The Duke of Wellington Misplaces His Horse" by Susanna Clarke. I went digging for old stories that I remembered, stories like "Repent Harlequin! Cried the Ticktockman" by Harlan Ellison.

Fireside Fiction has been a revelation - they have an incredible deep catalog of great fantasy and science fiction stories. I need to kick some money into their Patreon.

Yesterday I went searching for James Thurber's fables. We used to have a book - The Thurber Carnival - that had several of those stories, and I loved the wicked little things. He loved them too.

There are some classic stories that he's just not ready for. "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson? Forget it. I read him "The Monkey's Paw" the other day and he almost couldn't get to sleep, he was so spooked.

Every time I introduce him to a new story that he loved, it's a victory. Opening his mind to magical realism, weird fiction, is a joy. I'm constantly digging for new stories, new sources. This is one of those things that I dreamed about as a parent - introducing him to the stories and the writers that made me fall in love with fiction.

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