My deal with Isaac at school book fairs is that he gets to pick out two books and I get to pick out two books. Then of course Matt will pick out books and we will buy books for Isaac's teacher and then I may find something else that I can't pass up, so we rarely end up with just four books. But the initial effort to economize is there.
The deal really stems from an insistence on my part that we buy something with some literary value, rather than the tv-character driven books that the book fair company supplies in abundance or a book that lists the 10 grossest things ever seen.
At our spring book fair Isaac made some pretty good, and surprising, choices. As I noted already, he is intent on reading chapter books, so unless the book had pictures of a grotesquely tattooed Ripley's-Believe-It-Or-Not exhibit he was only interested in novels. A book that he chose as one of his two to purchase was How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor. I know that he initially picked it up because the title was intriguing. Don't most of us do that, unless it is the cover art that captures our attention first? So I made him read the summary on the back cover before making his final decision. Even after perusing the book fair every morning before school he decided that he wanted that book.
How to Steal a Dog is set in a small North Carolina town. The main character is Georgina Hayes. She, her younger brother Toby and their mother live in their car after their father left them and they lost their apartment. Georgina is angry with her father and her mother and desperate to hide the situation her family is in from her friends and teachers. After seeing a reward sign for a lost dog, Georgina hatches a plan to steal a well-loved dog owned by a rich family, certain that the owner will immediately offer a reward, which she and her brother will claim allowing her family to afford an apartment and again have a real home. Of course, things do not go as she expects and Georgina is forced to reconsider her plan. In the end, Georgina's family gets a home, though her efforts to earn reward money fall through. It is not a simple happy ending -- the family still has struggles ahead -- but it is hopeful.
As we were reading I wondered how Isaac was following the story and if he was even interested. Reading out loud to an active seven-year-old is often an exercise in patience for me. He is rarely still and has a habit of unconsciously humming (his teacher loved that this year). We wouldn't read the book each night, but every few evenings he would ask to return to it. He was interested in finding out how the characters solved their problems and concerned about what would happen in the end. We talked about the choices the characters made and the moments of grace that they experienced.
I read the end of the book with tears in my eyes and clogging my throat. Isaac usually looks at me like I am crazy when I do that. This time he seemed more sympathetic, though there was no way he was going to cry over a story. I think he did a pretty good job of picking out a book.