Thanks to my dear friend Jessica Collins and her column “On the Children’s Shelf,” I’ve been, over the last year, rediscovering my love of children’s literature. In a recent piece, she shared a related reading resolution that is dear to my heart: Making time for family reading and reading aloud together.
Family read aloud time is my favorite time. I love the shared experience of the words and images and how the shared experience invites us to slow down. I love how it changes the way we receive and process a story. I love talking about the characters as if they’re our mutual friends and rehashing what parts of the story we each connected to and what parts most resonated. I love sharing my favorite pastime with my favorite people.
My last read of 2015 was a book that would make a lovely family read aloud: Warren the 13th and The All-Seeing Eye, written by Tania del Rio and illustrated by Will Staehle. It’s a well-plotted and paced mystery whose compelling visuals inspire lingering and invite conversation. The story follows the eponymous Warren the 13th. A beleaguered, 12-year old orphan, Warren lives in a hotel first dreamed up by his great-great-etc. grandfather (aka Warren the 1st) and overseen by every Warren since. Following Warren the 12th’s death, though, the hotel has fallen into disrepair, and Warren the 13th is determined to save it.
To do so, he must uncover the hotel’s secrets before Annaconda, a dark witch who is also his step-aunt, does. Figuring out the mystery will take teamwork, along with the support and suggestions of friends old and new. Industrious, loyal, and kind, Warren is an endearingly plucky and optimistic character, just the kind readers like me love to root for, while the story’s twists and turns keep us turning the pages.
One interesting note: Reading the acknowledgments, I discovered that the visual art came first in this book. Illustrator Will Staehle created Warren and his world over a decade ago while in art school. Tania del Rio wrote the story’s words to match Staehle’s art. Both shine in this at times sad but ultimately heartening book.