Saturday, June 4, 2011

Kid Konnection

Every Saturday,  Booking Mama hosts a feature called Kid Konnection -- a regular weekend feature about anything related to children's books.
I have participated a couple of times in the past.  I don't always have the time  (mostly because I am a horrible procrastinator and it's Saturday before I know it and I've run out of time), but I love to read the reviews and opinions about all the great children's and YA books there.

I thought I'd write about "Gentle Ben" by Walt Morey today.     It's an oldie, but a goodie.  (Just like the music I like to listen to.)  Seriously tho,  Gentle Ben was one of my boys favorite stories when they were little--a long time ago.  I was just now browsing thru my  children's book closet and saw it, and thought...why not?

Gentle Ben is a classic.
Gentle Ben is an 'outdoorsy' adventure type of book that might appeal to boys.
It's about the friendship between Gentle Ben, an American Black Bear, and a young boy named Mark.
Walt Morey (the author) was a guest at the Grammar School I was working at as the  school librarian  in 1991 and he was very amusing.

But let me for a minute, go back to the 'boy' thing.   We all know statistically, that boys  need to see men reading to (um...what's the word?)  connect?  Imprint?  with books.  Whatever the word's really needed.

My daughter in-law told me a story about my 2-year old grandson Eli.  He is just beginning to talk and the other day  she told me...
well....her  exact words were:
One of my favorite things about Eli is that he feels the need to point to everything in our house and either label it as "mama" or "dada"

For example books = mama's (I told Marcus he needs to read more so Eli doesn't associate books as something belonging only to females).

Perhaps association was the word I was looking for.  Yes...boys need to see Men reading!    I could go off on that tangent, about role modeling to raise readers!  But I won't  (I just thought it was a cute story about Eli.   And I'm always up for sharing a cute story about my grandchildren!  He also says "mama" when he sees Dr. Pepper too.  ~laughing~  )

My point?   Do I have a point today?   Ahhh... Walt Morey.  He wrote Gentle Ben.  And when he came to talk to the school, (4th and 5th grades only) his stories were so filled with adventures and many near-dangerous exploits, that any 5th grade boy would love him.  And girls too....I am not trying to gender-ize (is that a word?) books/stories.  Any child would love this outdoors book.  It's just sometimes harder to get boys interested in the more passive act of reading, so adventure is sometimes the key. (as are sports stories)
Morey talked of living in the Pacific Northwest and being a nature lover for most of his life.    He was kind of a fussy, eccentric  old man when he came to the school, but very nice and amusing.  At one point in his story telling he was talking about a bear and he said,  " He was the meanest  son-of-a....(wait for it )  Son of a ......gun" there ever was.
We (the teachers and I) had sat on pins and needles for a moment because in our minds, we could hear him say  "son-of a bitch"  like it was nothing.
All the kids were on the edge of their seats!  I think they thought he would say it too.
Walt Morey was a fun 'male' role model who loved books, the outdoors, bears and could tell a whopping story!

But back to Gentle Ben.  Gentle Ben is a great book for boys AND girls.  It's a great Read-A-Loud too.  Written in 1965,  Gentle Ben was Morey's first book for young readers and won the  Dutton Junior Animal Book Award, the Sequoya Children's Book Award and was a ALA Notable Book.   Gentle Ben was made into a motion picture and a television series.  (the book takes place in Alaska, but they changed the TV series to Florida. Although I loved the television series when I was a kid, as an adult, it seems strange that they would have changed the setting to Florida.  But I guess in Alaska they couldnt' show those cool scenes of driving the swamp buggy to the rescue  )

I found this quote at
Not often brought up these days (except when a pop-culture show like The Simpsons or Family Guy needs a bear reference), Gentle Ben was the sort of kid-safe, family-friendly adventure series that was terribly popular during the 1960's, where jewel thieves and smugglers could be outwitted by a kid and his ginormous pet.

but I'm talking about the book, NOT the TV show.  And the book is always better.    But don't just trust my opinion.  I found this review on Amazon:  (from Ian in Florida--5th grade)
I love this book! I have read 7 books but I only liked 2. And this is one of them. This book is a great book for 4th-7th graders. The vocabulary is very hight. The srory brings tears in your eyes but laghfter to your heart!I recomend this book to very parent or child.

Now, that's a good review!  And I would agree....tears to your eyes  (how can any book with an animal not bring tears to your eyes)  and laughter to your heart. Through books you get stories of life experiences you  aren't otherwise  introduced to.  Think about how great of an experience that is for kids!

Jim Trelease, author of the Read-Aloud-Handbook says  of Gentle Ben:
A young boy adopts a huge bear and brings to his family in Alaska all the joys and tears such a combination might invite.  Though the struggle to save animals from ignorant, but well-informed human predators is one that has been written many times over, Morey's handling of characters, plot and setting makes this an original and exciting tale.  He supports the pace of his story with many lessons in environmental science, from salmon runs to hibernation.
me:  and this was in 1965!!  

It is cold and windy on this Saturday, June 4th, here in Northern Nevada ( we think Mother Nature is going thru menopause and taking it out on us!!  It's just all wrong!  Weather, that is),  so I just might call up my 9 year old grandson and ask if he wants to come over for an afternoon of book reading.  I'll introduce him to Gentle Ben.  And make chocolate chip cookies.
Before I go, I just want to throw in this link to a great website I found called Guys Read.  It's a collection of  books that  'guys' like!
Welcome to the Guys Read Virtual Vault of Good Books. This is the place to come if you’re looking for something to get a guy reading. We’ve collected recommendations from teachers, librarians, booksellers, publishers, parents, and guys themselves.  These are the books that guys have said they like.  We’ve gathered and grouped them to make them easier to find. 

If you have boys, love boys, know boys  (and girls too)  go check it out for something good to read.


bermudaonion said...

I remember this TV series, but it never occurred to me that it was based on a book. I bet my son would have loved it too!

Julie P. said...

I don't know if I ever saw the television series, but I do faintly remember it. Your post does bring to light so many important topics. My daughter and I are huge readers. My husband, not so much. Booking Son is just beginning to read independently and I hope he develops a love of reading like me!

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