My family has been reading quite a lot during quarantine, but do not be misled. We always read quite a lot. While we might get to stay up a little later now for just one more chapter, it’s only to make up for sun-drenched afternoons spent entirely out of doors. On the whole, as a farming family at the beginning of the growing season, I wouldn’t say we’re reading any more than we normally would.

That said, we’ve polished off quite a few. I’m not quite sure what all the older children have read and re-read; but with the three littlest ones I’ve been on a few adventures. We went to south Florida with The Yearling, and came back home to Wisconsin with Rascal. We had a misfire in South Africa after giving up on Jock of the Bushveld (what do people see in that book?) but made up for it on Spidermonkey Island with Doctor Dolittle. My little companions were outraged when that expedition ended (“It can’t stop there!”) and now we’re faced with the perennial dilemma of the reader: what shall we read next?

My little man is more particular than his younger sisters. The ideal candidate should be about animals (surely we’ve read them all by now). And camping (of course). And preferably veterinarians or naturalists (I’ve created a monster). Whatever shall we choose?

Maybe Swiss Family Robinson? It’s not strictly about animals, but if memory serves this shipwrecked family does befriend a number of creatures, and builds a home among the trees that would even impress my persnickety fellow. Or, speaking of being shipwrecked, there’s Robinson Crusoe and Treasure Island. Or what about Journey to the Center of the Earth; does that count as camping?

Perhaps, if he likes those, we could move on to The Hobbit, or The Chronicles of Narnia. They’re adventurous, and dear Sam spends plenty of nights under the stars with his trusty cooking pot. My lad is highly skeptical of animals that talk, but after Narnia maybe The Wind in the Willows? Who doesn’t want to spend a night in a yellow caravan?

Or, talking of roughing it in the wilderness, how about The Sign of the Beaver? Or anything by Elizabeth George Speare, really. It’s no good mentioning Laura Ingalls Wilder; we’ve read all those three times.

He wouldn’t mind a repeat of all his favorite dog stories: Lassie Come-Home, Where the Red Fern Grows, Shiloh, Big Red. I didn’t like so much Old Yeller and White Fang, or Red Dog. I couldn’t interest him in The Incredible Journey, though I was hooked. James Herriot’s Treasury for Children is a running staple.

Of course, it’s been awhile since we’ve read the penultimate animal story, so the little ones probably wouldn’t remember The Jungle Book. Oh, those noble elephants, and that brave little mongoose Rikki. What? You’ve only seen the movies? They can’t begin to do justice to the regal tales of justice and honor that Kipling wrote.

Speaking of heroism, there’s always the swashbuckling Redwall series, but that’s talking animals again. Dear me; if only he wasn’t so picky. Well, don’t worry about us… I’m sure we’ll find something we can read.

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