Thursday, 16 February 2012

Oxford Reading Tree

In an audacious but ultimately foiled bid to avoid doing her clarinet practice this morning, A decided that she was going to read C three stories in a row. They picked three from the Oxford Reading Tree Time Chronicles series (I am not sure which three, but it doesn't really matter, since they are pretty much all the same book). I bought them in the same order as the Maths Quest books that have been the obsession this half-term. Unusually for me, I did not actually want to buy these books. I didn't really feel the need for any more Oxford Reading Tree books in my life. But the kids really, really wanted them, and it was against my better judgement to say "No! You are not having this collection of books that you will read and enjoy because I don't want them!" That would be fair enough if they were pornographic, or contained scenes of violence and cruelty. But they don't. And I suppose it's better than reading Danielle Steele books you have nicked off your Mum, like I did when I was 8.

I am in two minds about the Oxford Reading Tree - Biff, Kipper, Chip et al. For the uninitiated they are the Roger Red Hat and Jennifer Yellow Hat of the current generation. Well, I say the current generation, but my cousin definitely read them when she was at school, and she is 24 this year. I think they are pretty dull, but those who grew up on them seem to hold them very dear in their hearts. In fact A almost always listens to C read his book from school, especially if it's one she hasn't read before. They have stood the test of time quite well, although I do remember A being very confused at the denouement of The Land of the Dinosaurs. In the story, Biff has taken lots of photographs of said creatures, but when she gets back home, she is devastated to find that she has no film in the camera. "What's film?" asks A, a child of the digital era.

I suppose it's similar to my long-held feelings of affection towards The Village with Three Corners and Bangers and Mash books. I doubt they were perfectly crafted pieces of literary inspiration, but I loved them all the same. Learning to read can be a very special time, and I suppose a fondness for the characters who helped you on the way is natural, especially if you go on to find pleasure in reading.

My favourite characters in the ORT books are Mum, who has the most fabulous mullet and blue eyeshadow, and Gran, who I am sure is always taking a cheeky swig out of a hipflask behind everyone's backs.

In a few short years, or possibly terms, I am sure I will be missing Biff and Chip. Luckily the Time Chronicles are aimed at an older readership, so that the "joy" can be extended. The children are somewhat older (Wilma and Aneena are at secondary school!) and the stories are historical adventures where the children seek to defend the world from the malevolent virans. They meet interesting historical characters along the way. They're not going to set the world on fire, but they did entertain A and C for an hour or so this morning.

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