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Monday, July 24, 2006

Help with books, please!

So as I mentioned in my previous post, my cousin (Horyon's cousin actually, but why be picky?) Jeongwon needed some book advice.

Jeongwon is 14 years old now. I first met her almost 6 years ago, and she couldn't speak a word of English. It was so bad that my Korean was better than her English. But we got along famously, and I always looked forward to seeing her. And now her English is so good that I feel embarrassed speaking Korean around her. Her vocabulary is huge, and her grammar is pretty sharp for a 14-year-old; a 14-year-old American! Our personalities aren't that much the same: she's a fairly serious girl, making only occasional jokes, but enjoying mine. She does not share my love for SF and fantasy--she doesn't care for Harry Potter, can you believe it? But she does like to read. And that makes her tops in my book.

Here's the problem: she and her parents are asking me for advice on what books to buy for her. It's too bad she can't just pop down to a public library in any given American town, but Korean libraries have (understandably) limited selections of books in English, in spite of the national obsession with my mother tongue.

So they gave me these data points:

By Roald Dahl
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Appropriate level, on the easy side.
Danny, the Champion of the World: More difficult than Charlie.
The Witches: Pretty hard to understand, but she can follow it.

Lily's Crossing (Patricia Reilly Giff): Too hard. She can understand it word by word, and sentence by sentence, but the ideas pile up too fast. She started reading it at an institute, but quit the institute. Even before quitting she didn't follow the book very well.

The Nutcracker, The Secret Garden, and Little Women: These are all simple English adaptations, the last two of which she read in Korean first. Adaptations are fine, but I'm hoping to set her up with stories presented the way they were written.

Today I met Jeongwon and we went book shopping after I bought us some lunch. That was after I went to meet her at the wrong subway stop because there's some kind of stone or something caught between my ears that keeps me from thinking well.

Today we bought:
The Cricket in Times Square (George Seldon)
The Sign of the Beaver (Elizabeth George Speare)

I liked The Cricket back in Elementary school, but didn't recognize the second book. We looked at the back covers, and read a few passages selected at random. Jeongwon thinks she may have read the Korean version of The Cricket, and she liked the description of The Sign.

I asked her to try reading one of them this week, to see how it goes. I will write about it as she tells me.

So from you, my readers, I am asking for suggestions. I know that some of you are (or have been) teachers, in elementary and middle school. Can you make some recommendations for Jeongwon? I thought about The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, but as I said, she's not much of a fantasy person. And frankly, all I know of adolescent fiction is from 20 years ago.

If you have any ideas, please post them as comments on Roblog. I know it's a bit of a hassle to do so, but that way other people can see your recommendations and add to them.

Thank you all in advance.



p.s. Two posts in one day! What's the world coming to!


Anonymous said...

Are you familiar with the Lemony Snicket books, A Series of Unfortunate Events? The vocabulary is fabulous and the kids I teach love them. They're not science fiction/fantasy, although the stories are definitely unbelievable. They might be too difficult for her. Your mother and I each read the first in the series and it was sufficient for us, but then we're not as young as we used to be (who is?).

Also, how about E.B. White? You know, Stuart Little, Charlotte's Web that stuff.

You always willing to try to be helpful and frequently failing,
Aunt Becky who is no longer bald

Anonymous said...

After the last post, I thought about Laura Ingalls Wilder. I LOVED the Little House books when I was a kid.

Shalea said...

I'll definitely second the EB White, and my mother adores Lemony Snicket so that's probably a good choice too.

How about Island of the Blue Dolphins? That was a favorite of mine at that age. Paddington Bear might be a little young for her (but entertaining!)

Let me check my shelves when I get home -- I know I'm forgetting stuff.

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