My oldest went to a public school for second grade, and one day came home with a book he had checked out from the school library. I get that boys like potty humor. I don’t like it, but I get it. But Super Diaper Baby went way beyond potty humor. Showing the birthing process via cartoon characters, and atrocious spelling with words like “enuff” rather than “enough,” is entirely inappropriate for emerging readers and spellers. I’m not about censorship at all, but a second grader should not have access to this crap.
It wasn’t long after that he brought home a Wimpy Kid book. It looks similar, in that it’s sort of comic book style and has that hand-written look. And there’s some potty humor. But it’s also written in proper English, and with correct spelling. It was intended for adult audiences, so it’s written to appeal to intelligent adults, and not dumbed-down for kids. And frankly, it’s downright funny. Irreverent. Embraces disobedience and rebellion, But it’s tasteful and relatively clean. We bought the entire series and read through them, and eagerly attended the movie on its opening weekend. That’s when tragedy struck via The Cheese Touch. The way The Cheese Touch was depicted in the movie was more than my sensitive 7 year old could handle. From that day forward, he still gets upset if he so much as sees a Wimpy Kid book.
But it’s okay. Because as we homeschool this year, we have been exposed to some WONDERFUL books for kids. Some were written a hundred years ago. The language can be a little out-dated. But the stories are amazing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to choke back a tear as we’ve read through tender moments in some of these books. We’ve just recently completed White Stallion of Lipizza. I have to admit that when I look at some of these books, I’m a little leery of whether the boys will understand some of the language, and most of these stories are set in very different times. White Stallions takes place in the early 1900s, as automobiles are emerging, and it’s not unusual for a 10 year old Viennese boy to daily ride a horse-drawn cart through town delivering baked goods from his family bakery. Alone. My kids are learning that there was a time when 25 cents could buy a brand new pair of pants, and that a 10 year old boy could work a paying job to buy his own store-bought pants.
This book, in particular, was an amazing story of success. In a day and age when a bakery boy was expected to grow up to become a baker, we find Hans, who adores the Lipizzaner stallions he sees parading down the street every morning during his deliveries. He decides that he wants to become a riding master, riding and training Lipizzaners. He first devours every bit of information he can find about the horses, scouring historic books, even spending his own money to take a train to the ranch where the horses are bread and born. Eventually, his research earns him an opportunity to take on a small job at the riding school, and ultimately this baker boy respectfully and diligently works his way into the riding school as an apprentice. It takes several years of training, but Hans achieves his dream of becoming a riding master.
It’s a beautiful story. There are some sad moments. Hans’s father at first discourages him from pursuing this impossible dream, then later supports and encourages his son. His father doesn’t live long enough to see Hans perform as a riding master. Hans’s faithful delivery cart mare, Rosie, passes away. But that’s part of life– people die, animals die, and hard work is rewarded with success.
I think that’s the one thing I hope my boys took away from the story– success is guaranteed to no one. Hans would never have been able to achieve his dream had he not dedicated himself to learning everything about it. Even when he started at the riding school, it was a long time before he got to start riding the horses and learning the acrobatic leaps the horses perform during their world-famous shows. And there were moments where he made mistakes, and owned up to them rather than make excuses. He grew into a young man of great character, always displaying incredible perseverance and patience– that is where greatness comes from.
There are humorous parts, too. But it’s actual humor– no toilets or underwear or farting noises are involved. I’ll admit that I miss the light-hearted humor of the Wimpy Kid. But title character in those books only aspires to sneak out his house to play video games that his parents don’t approve of.
Move over, Wimpy Kid. I’d rather my boys learn from kids like Hans– a boy of strong character.