By Linda Porter Carlyle
Joseph Anderson Donetti felt like shouting. Instead, he took a deep breath and began softly, “I don’t want to belong to a book club! I don’t want to give book reports in front of perfect strangers!”
“Well,” G.M. (Grandma Maddie) answered, “I’m sorry you don’t want to, but I’m the teacher. And I think that belonging to a book club will be good for you. It will be a good educational experience.” (Joseph is homeschooled.)
Joseph frowned mightily. He tried to frown so hard that his eyebrows touched over his nose, but he didn’t think he quite made it. “I don’t want to give book reports!” he repeated.
“Oh, come on!” G.M. encouraged. “You like to watch Reading Rainbow on TV. They always end that show with several kids giving short book reports. And you like listening to them. You’ve even had me take you to the library so you could find a book you heard about!”
“Yes, but I never said I wanted to give book reports!” Joseph retorted.
“I’m sorry,” G.M. said in an end-of-discussion tone of voice. “You’re stuck. It’s an assignment. The book club will meet once a month at Mrs. Gardener’s house. Each student will give a report on a book he or she has read. Then you’ll all have a snack and play together for a while. Does that sound so terrible?”
Joseph was quiet. The snack part sounded fine. The playing part sounded good. Even the part about listening to other kids give book reports didn’t sound bad. The bad part was that he would have to give reports too! And he probably wouldn’t even know any of the other kids.
“They may be strangers to begin with,” G.M. said as if she could tell just what he was thinking. “But in a month or two they’ll be old friends. Here’s a book I think you’ll like. You’ll be able to do a great report on it,” she added. She handed him a medium-sized blue book and then sat down at the big table in the bright, sunlit room.
Joseph watched G.M. look at the vase of tall yellow flowers setting there, pull them close, and begin to study them. He grinned. He could read the signs. G.M. was getting ready to begin another painting. In a minute or so she would forget he was even in the room. It was kind of special having an artist for a grandmother, he thought. She sure wasn’t the ordinary kind of grandmother though! It had been a real shock when he moved in to discover that his grandmother didn’t like cooking, for example. Joseph had thought that all grandmothers loved to cook. He had thought that was practically a requirement to becoming a grandmother! Boy, he had had a lot to learn!
Joseph sighed, crossed the room to the big overstuffed chair, sank into it, and looked at the cover of the blue book. Owls in the Family. He opened to the first chapter and began to read. Very soon he was far away—deep in the prairies of Canada, hunting gophers with Billy, and Bruce, and Murray. He laughed until he almost fell out of the chair when he read the part about the boys going owl hunting with their teacher, Mr. Miller. G.M. was right. He liked this book!
Joseph heard a familiar thud on the back porch—and a familiar pounding on the back door. He dragged himself out of the chair and scuffed slowly to the kitchen, reading all the way. He crossed the kitchen and opened the back door without taking his eyes off the page.
“What are you reading?” Mac demanded as she bounced into the kitchen.
Joseph managed to look up. “It’s a book G.M. gave me,” he answered. He grinned. “It’s so good! I wish we lived way out on the prairie and could catch gophers and go looking for birds’ nests and stuff! Here, listen to this!” Joseph sat down at the kitchen table and began to read aloud.
Mac pulled out another chair and sat down too. She propped her elbows on the table and rested her chin on her hands.
Joseph read about the smashed horned owl’s nest that Billy, and Bruce, and Murray had found one morning after a huge storm. He read about the two dead young owls they found at the foot of the tree. And he read about how they looked for sticks to mark the graves of the baby owls they were going to bury. And about the bundle of wet feathers they found under a pile of brush while they looked. The bundle of wet feathers was a third owlet—still alive, but soaked, shivering, and completely miserable.
“Oh!” Mac breathed. “I wish we could find a baby owl like that! That would be so much fun! Can you imagine having an owl for a pet? I never knew anybody who had an owl for a pet! This is a great book! Can I borrow it? I have to give a book report as soon as school starts. I could do a great book report with this book!”
All of a sudden Joseph remembered his problem. He closed the book and marked the place with a finger. “I have to give a book report too!” he said unhappily. “G.M. is making me join a homeschool book club, and all the kids have to read a book every month and give a report about it. I don’t want to do it!” Continued next week