A Brand-New Chapter
I tried reading her Stuart Little first. Nothing doing: “Mommy, this needs way more pictures,” she told me. Knowing how much she likes animals and how much I like E. B. White, I next tried Charlotte’s Web. That met with slightly more success, but a few pages in, she stopped me and said she’d rather read something else. I tried again with Little House on the Prairie, but she started throwing a tantrum before I could even open it up. “Mommy, I’ve told you: NO CHAPTER BOOKS!” So I gave up.

And of course, as with everything else, Ruby recently decided she was ready for chapter books – on her own terms. We recently read our first full chapter of a chapter book, at Ruby’s insistence.

But the book isn’t Matilda or Cricket in Times Square or any of my cherished childhood favorites. Instead, it’s a truly bizarre Australian novella called Pobby and Dingan. She saw the movie first, and despite the fact that even I think it is achingly slow, it captivated her so much that my mom bought her the book on which it was based.

The premise is that a little girl, Kellyanne, living in a opal-mining town in Australia has no friends but contents herself by playing with her two imaginary friends, Pobby and Dingan. Her alcoholic father takes Pobby and Dingan to the opal mines one day and loses them. He tries to pretend that he hasn’t left them behind, but Kellyanne isn’t fooled. The rest of the book focuses on the search for the two imaginary friends.

Weird, right?

Ruby freaking loves it.

I don’t know what the appeal is, frankly – not just in general, but to Ruby in particular. Ruby has never had imaginary friends of her own, and her play is very realistic: We play restaurant or tea party or emergency room – or lately, through an extremely unfortunate lapse in judgment on my part, “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.” This fanciful book isn’t something I ever would have thought would appeal to my down-to-earth little girl.

But, as I keep learning, I just need to follow Ruby’s lead. The important thing isn’t what we’re reading; the important thing is that we’re reading, and even more important, that we’re snuggling up in bed together and connecting at the end of the day. So if she wants Pobby and Dingan, Pobby and Dingan it shall be, and even if the book isn’t my favorite, I’m absolutely fascinated by watching Ruby develop her own tastes and interests and preferences. (But I’m still keeping the E. B. White and Roald Dahl and Laura Ingalls Wilder on her bookshelf. One day, maybe …)

Excerpted from Eve Kidd Crawford’s blog, Joie d’Eve, which appears each Friday on For comments:

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