For one of my elementary reading classes that I took long, long ago we were assigned to create a timeline of our reading life. I have no idea anymore what I included for sure, but I liked the assignment and I enjoyed looking over how my reading life started and changed over time. I am sure I could redo the assignment now and see once again how my reading has changed over the additional decade since I took this class. When I think back to certain books that I remember vividly from my childhood there are many. Looking through my shelves for a read aloud for my girls I came across one of my favorites: Jelly Belly by Robert Kimmel Smith. I happened upon this book by accident at the local public library when I was about ten and fell in love with it. Years later I forced my brother to check it out despite the fact that all he wanted to get were a stack of Garfield comic books. Then I forced him to read the first chapter. He didn't want to admit that he was enjoying himself, but he loved this book, too, and proceeded to check out all the books by Robert Kimmel Smith.
Nathaniel Robbins is fat. His parents have been after him to eat better and lose weight, but he loves to eat. His grandmother loves to cook and since she lives with Nathaniel's family, Nathaniel is always tempted to eat everything she makes. When Nat is sent away to Camp Lean-To for the summer he spends most of his time plotting with his bunkmates and trying to find ways to get junk food. While he does lose some weight at camp, Nathaniel knows he hasn't really given his full effort. His older brother Jamie longs to be a cross country star on the high school team as well. He is a great mentor for Nat and explains to him about how even though he wants that, he hasn't really exerted any effort for that to happen. He doesn't want it badly enough - sort of like Nathaniel and losing weight. Their dad sweetens the deal a bit by promising a family trip to Disney World if Nathaniel can reach his target weight of 75 pounds by Easter. Will he be able to do it?
I honestly wondered if my daughters would enjoy this story. The topic is one I liked at the age of ten, and they are just not that old yet. But there is so much humor in this book that every night I would have to stop reading despite protests for me to keep going. Today my girls are tired and crabby. We didn't stay up late watching TV. No, we stayed up late reading/listening to 64 pages of Jelly Belly so we could find out how the story ends. I love this book and back in the 80s it was one of the only ones I remember about body image and dieting. I don't want my girls to be overly conscious of those things now, but Jelly Belly has some good information about eating healthy, getting exercise and taking care of your body. I always wish I could use this book as a read aloud, or that someone could, but I fear that Jelly Belly would end up hitting close to home for at least one person in every classroom and perhaps cause some embarassment. However, with the growing problem of childhood obesity, Robert Kimmel Smith knew what he was talking about twenty some years ago, and this book is one that large numbers of kids would enjoy.Visit Robert Kimmel Smith's website.
Talking with a friend this morning she commented on how lucky I was to get to read to my girls every night. Her children are grown up now, and while she reads to her grandchildren, I am sure it is not the same. Even though my kids have been crabby and picking on each other all day because of their late night reading, I am lucky. I love reading to them and talking with them about what we have read and watching them delight in stories I delighted in when I was growing up.