My daughter and I have been reading lots of picture books and early readers lately, as well as dabbling in a few chapter books. Today she had a reaction to a book that surprised me. We were reading Sam & Dave Dig A Hole, by Mac Barnett and Jon Klassen (review to come), for her first time.
In this book (due out in two weeks), two brothers decide to dig a hole, and to keep digging until they find something "spectacular." The reader can see that they have a number of near-misses, in which they almost find large jewels. Their dog is aware that there is something nearby in each spot, but the boys are oblivious. At the end of the book something spectacular happens to the boys (and the dog), but (and this is a bit of a spoiler) they do not find any of the hidden jewels.
We were reading this book before school, while I brushed my daughter's hair. As we reached the end, she curled in upon herself and slumped over. "What's wrong?" I asked. "You didn't like how the book ended?" She responded by flipping back several pages, to the first point at which the boys stop digging right above a large jewel. She just pointed, completely lost for words. "You wanted them to find one of the jewels?" I asked, and she just nodded. Then she got up and slumped out of the room, dejected to the extent that my husband asked her what was wrong.
My reaction? I'm sorry that she didn't like the book. But I think it's kind of neat that she got so invested in the ending that she wanted from the book that she felt crushed when things didn't turn out that way. I think this is a milestone on the path to literacy: truly caring about what happens in the books that you read.
Yes, my Baby Bookworm, books can break your heart. It hurts in the moment, but this is part of what makes them so special.