Once upon a time, just before bed…

The version of Persuasion that I was reading. Ironically, David Shapard may have actually packed it with enough historical information to answer all of The Five-Year-Old’s questions. But I’m still going to make her wait until she’s 13.

A Five-Year-Old crawled into her mother’s lap and asked a question: “What are you reading, Mommyo?”

Mommyo: “A book by my favorite author in the whole world.”

The Five-Year-Old: “What is it?”

Mommyo: “Persuasion. When you were born, the very first book I ever read to you was Pride and Prejudice, but I think if I were to do it over again now, I might chose Persuasion instead.”

The Five-Year-Old: “Will you read it to me tonight?”

Mommyo: “Not tonight, but someday.”

The Five-Year-Old: “When?”

Mommyo: “When you turn 13. That is the earliest age at which Jane Austen can be properly appreciated.”

The Five-Year-Old: “Why?”

Mommyo: “Because before then you may not understand it, and you may have too many questions.”

The Five-Year-Old: “I won’t have any questions, Mommyo.”

Very slight pause, and then…

The Five-Year-Old: “What’s persuasion?”

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About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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4 Responses to Once upon a time, just before bed…

  1. teenagejaneausten says:

    This made me chuckle indeed! I wonder what I will end up reading to my children one day, probably classics 🙂


  2. I think that’s brilliant, reading books like P&P and such to babies. Not only do they not understand a word you are saying anyhow, but then you get to read something you like.
    I think this post is adorable though. I must ask, how do you like annotated books? Do you find yourself reading the information more than the book? I also saw you had posted a picture of the new annotated Emma, how do you like that?
    Lastly, I really need to get on the ball, I’ve only read Persuasion. I keep trying to get through P&P, but I get lost around chapter 11, and I just could not seem to get to meeting Col. Brandon in S&S.


    • Shala Howell says:

      I like David Shapard’s way of annotating the books, because the original text is on one page, and the annotations are on the opposite page so there’s no flipping. It’s less disruptive, or at least seems less disruptive. I also end up reading far more of the annotations, so get more out of it.

      I enjoyed the annotations for P&P and for Emma, less so for Persuasion. I think because P&P I’ve read so often I can recite it chapter and verse, so the annotations didn’t disrupt the story for me. Emma I have read less often, but also care less about, so again the annotations weren’t that disruptive. Persuasion I have only really begun to appreciate now that I’m older, so I’ve a) read it less often b) was more likely to be irritated with the annotations for breaking up the flow of the prose.


    • Shala Howell says:

      Thanks. It was pretty awesome. Of course now that the secret is out that I did it, The Five-Year-Old wants me to read her EVERY book I’m reading, which of course is in not appropriate, so instead I give her sanitized synopses as I go along.

      Still, that can be amusing too. I’m reading Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire, a book which I summarized for The Five-Year-Old partway through as “A fairytale in which some fairies start a computer company, but things keep breaking in strange ways, so they have to call in a mechanic.” Whenever I pick it up in front of her now, she wants to know if the mechanic has fixed things yet.


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