Orange is for The Amber Spyglass

amber_spyglass_coverThe children have been back at school for a week. A new year and a new term. It’s a big year for EB who will join F at high school after the summer. It’s a great school by any bench mark. F is being motivated and challenged and pushed on in every subject (not just the academic ones either) and he is thriving. EB is going to love it too, I’m sure.

Watching F and EB progress at school only serves to emphasise just how slowly things move in R’s. R enjoys school and she is very happy there and there is no question that it’s the best option available at present. A disastrous placement in a mainstream nursery confirmed that to us. But still, the gap between what R is learning and what eight year olds in a mainstream setting learn is growing – depressingly – ever wider. This week, R’s switch conveyed the news that they were learning all about “Orange”. R has been secure in her colours since P1 at least. That she should be revising these once again in P4 makes me despair.

U, a colleague of ours, has been the source of many books and audiobooks for our children. Her choices are never obvious and always interesting. A while back, U gave R Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories, read by Johnnie Morris. To my admitted surprise, it turns out that R enjoys many of them. The best part is that she doesn’t like them all. “How the Whale got its Throat” makes her chuckle; “How the Camel got its Hump” is always greeted with complaints. This is true regardless of the order in which they are played.

Since the arrival of our children, we have listened to a lot of audiobooks. Long journeys, such as those that we regularly make to Germany, Austria and Switzerland, require audiobooks for entertainment. These days, I tend to pick classic children’s novels that F and EB may not perhaps (read: would never in a million years) choose for themselves. So at various times we have listened to The Borrowers (we all loved this), The Railway Children (ditto), Anne of Green Gables (ditto), Emil and the Detectives (in German, to the undisguised disgust of the children, though they enjoyed it all the same), Ballet Shoes (only EB and I liked this one) and so on. R’s tolerance for these varies and, particularly when she is unwell, she frequently prefers to listen to stories that she already knows well. We all know The Enormous Crocodile by heart, complete with the full range of Stephen Fry voices.

Before we left for Christmas this year, U presented the children with unabridged audio copies of Phillip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials. For anyone who hasn’t read these – do it now. I am not a fan of the fantasy genre (I am not afraid to say that I don’t like Tolkien) but these are terrific. They are brilliantly imagined but very convoluted and demand your attention. So, not perhaps everyone’s first choice for an (allegedly) cognitively impaired eight year old.

We didn’t dare try the books on the way to Germany because R was so agitated and it wasn’t until we were half way to Switzerland that we put on the first CD. And then there was silence in the car. Everyone, including R, was rapt. No one slept. We listened to the story without interruption all the way to Switzerland and then all the way home. We reached the end of book two just as we arrived back in Glasgow.

What this means of course, is that we are all desperate to find out how the story ends, and so R’s current bedtime story is the final book in the trilogy, The Amber Spyglass. The cover is a lovely burnt metallic orange. A perfect example for her colour homework, I think.

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