So a few weeks ago I wrote a strongly worded letter to EM’s teachers asking, among other things, whatever happened to the reading books you used to send home every Monday? And, are you fer’ real with these spelling words? “Jeg”? “Meg”? “Av”? You are aware, I hope, that she is nearly 8 years old and has been reading with ever increasing fluency for nearly 3 years now? Oh, and while I’ve got your ear for a minute here, why is it exactly that no one has yet bothered to teach her how to carry her ones and take away from her tens? I mention her age again (8 in May) only because it seems from the contents of her homework folder that you all seem to be operating under the impression that she is still 5. Or, mentally challenged. Or, even—I grudgingly admit it is within the realm of possibility—just plain stupid. So, like, what gives?
Her teachers (all three of them), whom I have always liked by the way, were quick to respond that: No, EM is most definitely not stupid. She is rather, a very bright, eager, and easy student. As far as the work level is concerned, we are simply following national curriculum guidelines for her age level. However, if I want her to have a bit of extra work, why all I had to do was ask.
Splendid. They sent her home with two extra reading books that very day. One in Norwegian, and they were pleased to announce the school had just purchased a set of early English readers which would be perfect for EM. So, here you are—the first in the series. Enjoy! Oh but please, they were quick to add, don’t push her too hard. EM likes to learn, but she’s still just a child and she likes to play too.
Pfft. What.Ever. Put that bloody Nintendo down EM, and read this. Yes! NOW!
When I first read the phrase ‘early English reader’, I was thinking cool, they’ve purchased the Oxford Reading Tree series, or possibly the Jolly Phonics books that I’m told are all the rage over in merry old England. At any rate, English books written by English speaking persons for English speaking children.
But, no. Being Norwegian, they naturally figured a Norwegian writer was better equipped to teach a Norwegian child to speak and read English for heaven’s sake. So what I’ve got here is a series of books written in halting, tortured English by, what I can only assume from the subject matter of these books to be, halting, tortured Norwegians.
I’m sure this violates all kinds of copyright laws, but I just have to share with you the text of the second book, in its entirety. There’s no way I can do this stuff justice in a brief synopsis.
So here it is: The Naughty Mice
It is evening.
They are eating.
(The illustration shows a family of four seated at a dinner table in the fuzzy background, and a cute little mouse drinking a drop of water from a faucet in the foreground.)
There is a mouse on the table.
(According to the illustration, the mouse is, in fact, on the countertop. But whatever.)
--There are two mice.
--Are they walking on the table?
They are naughty mice.
I am going to fetch a trap.
--Where are our cats?
--They are sitting by the door.
They are waiting for food.
They hear a snap.
A mouse has been trapped.
Daddy gives it to the cat.
(The illustration for this one shows a disembodied hand dangling a dead mouse in front of two cats. A dead mouse, for God’s sake! The hell?)
--I will put the trap out again.
Yes, says mummy.
--Catch the other mouse.
Mary and Steven are going to sleep.
--How many mice got trapped?
--20 naughty mice, said Mary.
--And that is just tonight.
Personally, I think the story ends rather abruptly here, and I’m considering sending a suggestion to the publisher to add a tiny little epilogue:
The cats grew fat.
And they lived in continued squalor ever after.