Reading To Our Kids

What my wife & I are reading to our four kids

Well isn’t that just gorgeous!

One Photo. Every Day.

Loves reading more and more everyday.

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The Rough Music

Wintersmith (Discworld, #35)

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Reading to: Alanah (9) & Sabrina (3).

Warning, spoilers ahead.

Chapter 2, The Rough Music

This book has a number of quite scary scenes in it.  When the Cunning Man takes over the body of the murderer in prison and runs it to bits to get Tiffany, that’s pretty nasty.  The anger and hatred that the townsfolk show towards Tiffany as the Cunning Man stirs up their fears and prejudices, that’s pretty dark too.  But I don’t think any of them are as confronting as chapter two, The Rough Music.

She slapped Petty’s face. ‘Can you hear that?’ she demanded, waving her hand towards the darkened window. ‘Can you hear it? That’s the sound of the rough music, and they are playing it for you, Mister Petty, for you. And they have sticks! And they have stones! They have everything they can pick up, and they have their fists and your daughter’s baby died, Mister Petty. You beat your daughter so hard, Mister Petty, that the baby died, and your wife is being comforted by some of the women and everybody knows that you have done it, everybody knows.’

The rough music was getting nearer slowly, because it’s hard to walk across fields on a dark night when you’ve had a skinful of beer, no matter how righteous you are currently feeling. She had to hope that they did not go into the barn first, because they would hang him there and then. If he was lucky, they would just hang him. When she had looked into the barn and seen that murder had been done, she knew that, without her, it would be done again. She had put a charm on the girl to take her pain away, holding it just above her own shoulder. It was invisible, of course, but in her mind’s eye it burned a fiery orange.

That is dark, very dark for this early in the book, and much darker than any of the previous books. I was concerned that maybe it would disturb my kids, but so far so good.  I really like this book, it’s dark and malevolent but it touches on so many important themes, while still managing to be entertaining. And funny. This is still a Pratchett Discworld novel after all. The fact that a book can deal with child abuse, miscarriage, murder, prejudice and hatred while still managing to make you laugh demonstrates to me the complete genius of Sir Terry Pratchett.

Interestingly enough I discovered that the ‘Rough Music’ is (or at least was) a real thing.  I thought it was just another term that Pratchett had made up but it really is a term for local village ‘justice’

The participants were generally young men temporarily bestowed with the power of rule over the everyday affairs of the community.Issues of sexuality and domestic hierarchy most often formed the pretexts for rough music,including acts of domestic violence or child abuse.

So there you go, even when re-reading a book for the third time you can learn something new!

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This is a beautiful map done of the area surrounding the Sto Plains on Discworld. I’m going to show this to my kids, becuase we’ve started ‘I Shall Wear Midnight‘. Previously the Tiffany books didn’t stray far from The Chalk (just above the middle of the map), in Wintersmith Tiffany went up to Lancre, but in this book she goes down to Ankh-Morpork too.

Stuffed Crocodile

deviantArt user SM9T8 created this stunning map according to the descriptions in the L-Space Wiki and the Discworld Mapp.

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Kicking off ‘I Shall Wear Midnight’

Wintersmith (Discworld, #35)

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Reading to: Alanah (9) & Sabrina (3).

A man with no eyes. No eyes at all. Two tunnels in his head …Somewhere – some time – there’s a tangled ball of evil and spite, of hatred and malice, that has woken up. And it’s waking up all the old stories too – stories about evil old witches…

Due warning: there be spoilers ahead!

Last night we continued on our reading of Terry Pratchett’s Tiffany Aching series by starting I Shall Wear Midnight. Tiffany is now 16 years old and is the witch of The Chalk. As with the previous Tiffany books, as she has gotten older, so have the topics in the books.  This book get a fair bit darker, it has child abuse (not explicitly spelled out, but it’s there), sexual tension, broken hearts, betrayal, violence, bigotry and religious hysteria.  The “Cunning Man” is a take off the church Inquisitors of old and he is a genuinely scary and horrific character.

While technically I am reading this to both my nine year old (Alanah) and my three year old (Sabrina), I start the night by reading Sabrina one of her books (pretty much always Charlie & Lola at the moment). So Sabrina generally falls asleep not long after I finish reading that.  I don’t really think she’d follow most of it anyway, but she is also a big fan of the Nac Mac Feegle.

There’s also a few cameos in this book from previous (non-Tiffany) Discworld books, including Magrat Garlick, Death & my favourites: The City Watch.  There is also a fairly important role played by one Eskarina Smith the main protagonist in the book Equal Rites where she is a daughter of a Wizard (not supposed to happen) and gets enrolled at Unseen University by Granny Weatherwax. The fact that no female was allowed to enrol was of no great concern to Granny.  We also get to go to the famous Boffo Novelty and Joke Shop.

Anyway there’s also a bunch of time-travel and altered reality stuff in this book, but frankly if my kids can keep up with Doctor Who, they can cope with this.  This is the last of the Tiffany books, and there has been no hint (that I know of) that there will be any more.  I foresee much sad faces & pouting to come at the end of this one, although maybe Lani can graduate on to reading Wyrd Sisters herself.

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Finished Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Wintersmith (Discworld, #35)

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Reading to: Alanah (9) & Sabrina (3).

We finished Wintersmith last night. We would have finished the night before, but about fifteen pages before the end, I noticed a distinct lack of questions at the obscure bits and giggles at the the Nac Mac Feegle bits coming from the bed above me (Alanah sleeps in a loft bed we’ve built above Sabrina’s bed).

So last night I went back about ten pages, and then finished the book. I think it’s safe to say that Alanah’s favourite part of the last part is when Rob Anybody confronts his ‘heroic’ task of reading a book:

“Where’s mah coo?” he read. “Is that mah coo? It gaes cluck! It is
a…a…chicken! It is no’ mah coo! An’ then there’s this wee paintin’ o’ a
couple o’ chickens. That’s another page, right?”

“It is indeed, Rob,” said Billy Bigchin.

There was a cheer from the assembled Feegles as Rob ran around the book, waving his hands in the air

It took a second reading for her to recognise it, but then a huge grin appeared on her face as she realised where it was from. It’s from the book Where’s My Cow, the children’s book Pratchett created for Samuel Vimes to read to his son in Thud.  My kids got me Where’s My Cow for me for father’s day a few years ago, they were thrilled to be able to buy me a book that actually looked interesting for a change, instead of those boring books with only words in that Mummy buys for me!

Sarah now assures me she’s spent the rest of the day yelling “Where’s ma coo!!!”

Sarah & I managed to coordinate the ending of our books, so while I’m moving on to I Shall Wear Midnight, the next book in the Tiffany series, she’ll be starting reading Beyond the Spiderwick Chronicles: The Nixie’s Song that they got from the library.

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Sometimes I forget some details…

Wintersmith (Discworld, #35)

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Reading to: Alanah (9) & Sabrina (3).

Sometimes I forget some details of a book I’ve read.  As I mentioned previously, Wintersmith introduces some topics or romantic relationships and does mention sex. As preface I should mention that we’ve yet to have ‘the talk’ with our eldest (9 year old) daughter.  She understands the reproductive process biologically, we’ve explained the whole ovulation, fertilisation and gestation process.  She’s seen pictures of unborn children.  She even knows that the male provides the sperm while the female has the eggs.  What we haven’t explained (mostly because she just hasn’t asked yet) is the, ah, delivery mechanism (*ahem*).

So anyway, the previous reference to sex went by without comment, but it was a pretty quick reference and she may have just missed it.  However as we went on the following night, I was reading along when I came up to this next bit, which I had completely forgotten about:

Things were a little better when Tiffany had warmed up. She wondered
how much brandy Nanny had added to the milk. Nanny had done one for
herself, with probably some milk added to the brandy.

“Isn’t this nice and cozy,” said Nanny after a while.

“Is this going to be the talk about sex?” said Tiffany.

“Did anyone say there was going to be one?” said Nanny innocently.

“I kind of got the feeling,” said Tiffany. “And I know where babies come
from, Mrs. Ogg.”

“I should hope so.”

“I know how they get there, too. I live on a farm and I’ve got a lot of older

“Ah, right,” said Nanny. “Well, I see you’re pretty well prepared for life,
then. Not much left for me to tell you, I expect. And I’ve never had a god pay
any attention to me, as far as I can recall. Flattered, are you?”

“No!” Tiffany looked into Nanny’s smile. “Well, a bit,” she admitted.

I got to the start of the third line and stopped.  I felt really uncomfortable.  My wife & I had an understanding that we were never going to lie to the kids about this, none of that “the stork brought you” nonsense.  We had agreed that as soon as one of the kids asked the question we would answer honestly & completely.

However, I wasn’t quite sure that 8:30 at night when I’m trying to get her & her three year old sister to sleep was really the right time to start what would inevitably be a rather long conversation. So I told them I needed to talk to Mummy for a minute, went to the room across the hallway where my wife was busy reading The Hobbit to our 6 year old daughter and 8 year old son & asked if I could have a chat with Mummy for a second.

After handing her the book and saying “so should I read this next bit?”, a brief discussion (and Sarah laughing at me) occurred and we decided that I should just keep reading and take the conversation if it happened. So I did, we read on and, nothing.  No questions, no “huh?”, nothing.  I should mention at this point that Alanah does ask questions if she doesn’t understand something or gets confused.

It’s left me wondering whether she’s already figured it out, or whether it’s just not occurring to her to ask.  I wonder whether we just should ask her, but as Sarah said, if she doesn’t know & hasn’t thought to ask, she’s probably not ready yet.

Oh well, we do read to the kids to broaden their minds, the conversation has to come up eventually.

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Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Wintersmith (Discworld, #35)

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Reading to: Alanah (9) & Sabrina (3).

When Tiffany Aching – young witch – steps into a dance she shouldn’t, the spirit of winter falls in love with her. He gives her roses and icebergs, says it with avalanches and showers her with snowflakes – and suddenly winter is all around her. All the time. With the help of the Nac Mac Feegle, first met in The Wee Free Men, and a bit of advice from witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, Tiffany must put the mess right – or there will never be another springtime …

There are spoilers ahead

This is the third book in the Tiffany Aching series, which is part of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld universe. The previous two books being The Wee Free Men & A Hat Full of Sky, both of which I’ve already read to my 9 year old and 3 year old daughters. All the kids love these books, especially the Nac Mac Feegle (in my best attempt at a Scottish accent too). Alanah, my eldest, is particularly fond of the Feegles, she finds them hilarious. I sometimes hear her crying "Crivens!" to her siblings throughout the day.

Currently we’re about half way through the book. For those who’ve read it, Tiffany has just moved in with Nanny Ogg.

As with all of Terry Pratchett’s books, this book is part fantasy, part comedy and part social commentary. The Tiffany series is actually a spin-off of the witches series of books and shares a few of the characters, particularly Granny Weatherwax & Nanny Ogg.  These Tiffany books are aimed at a child/teenage audience (I think they’re classified as ‘Young Adult Fiction’), so it has less violence and innuendo than in some of the other Discworld novels.  It does mention the Feegles and their “fightin’ an boozin’” where they get “pished” (I had to explain those last two).

Also, there are some interesting themes introduced in this book. Essentially the Wintersmith, i.e. the anthropomorphic personification of Winter, falls in love with Tiffany. This is the first time in the Tiffany books that romantic love is really talked about openly. It was hinted at in Hat Full of Sky, but never really gone into. In this one Tiffany has to deal with not only the Wintersmith’s feelings for her, but also her own confusion around how she feels about that, plus her definitely-not-boyfriend-just-a-boy-who-she-writes-to Roland. Sex is actually mentioned briefly:

"Is this about sex?" asked Tiffany.
Miss Tick looked at the ceiling. Granny Weatherwax cleared her throat. Nanny gave a huge laugh that would have embarrassed even the little wooden man.
"Sex?" she said. "Between Summer and Winter? Now there’s a thought."
"Don’t…think…it," said Granny Weatherwax sternly. She turned to Tiffany. "He’s fascinated by you, that’s what it is. …"

This section went past without any comment or question surprisingly enough.

I’ve read all the Tiffany books previously (actually there’s only a couple of the Discworld books I haven’t read) so I get a lot of pleasure anticipating my kids’ reactions to the sections that are coming up.  The book picks up the pace after this, with Annagramma’s troubles, the snow and then confronting the Wintersmith.  I’m really interested to see what Alanah makes of this one.

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