For day 11 we were re-introduced to a book by Maya Angelou that was a favorite of our oldest when she was little. “My Painted House, My Friendly Chicken, and Me” introduces the reader to an eight year old girl, Thandi, who is a member of the Ndebele (pronounced “n-duh-bee-lee”) tribe in South Africa. The book is filled with colorful photographs of life in the Ndebele tribe and the narration is spirited and playful. Thandi shares not only the details of her life but lets the reader in on some of her thoughts and secrets. Ms. Angelou succeeds in creating an authentic voice for an 8 year old girl, and by the end of the story, the reader is no longer a “stranger-friend” but someone that Thandi would like to call her “friend”. It is an endearing book.
In extended read aloud we were able to make quite a bit of progress with Huck and Jim as they wended their way down the Mississippi river. Their path tonight was fraught with challenges – all of which Huck seems to think were brought on by his touching a snake skin (an event immediately identified as a bad omen by Jim but originally not credited as such by Huck). However, we were particularly struck by two episodes in the book this evening.
The first was an entertaining discussion between the two principals about the true wisdom (or lack thereof) of King Solomon, and Jim’s confusion about why Frenchmen would speak a different language from him and Huck. Huck becomes frustrated trying to reason with Jim, but Jim’s reasoning (and the kernels of truth in some of his arguments) had us laughing out loud. I actually found Jim’s logic regarding King Solomon to be rather compelling.
The second was a reminder for us of how much Huck’s upbringing in Missouri (a slave state) has colored his view of the world. As Jim grows increasingly optimistic about his prospects for freedom, and potentially being able to buy the freedom of his wife and children, Huck begins to feel guilty…not because Jim and his family have been separated and treated as property, but because Huck has aided and abetted in Jim’s escape – a sin that Huck considers to be comparable to (or even worse than!) stealing. When presented with the opportunity to turn Jim in, however, Huck quickly invents a diversion for reasons he doesn’t entirely understand, and we are left to wonder when, or if, Huck will comes to terms with his own standards of right and wrong (and his friendship with Jim) in spite of what he has been taught to believe.