We didn’t do a whole lot of reading this month: a few folktales and two novels. For us, that’s practically a Lent-like fast from books. Only it isn’t Lent. Which is a good thing, because the two novels we read were so delicious they don’t really count as fasting fare.

The Magician’s Elephant by Kate diCamillo, illustrated by Yoko Tanaka

This is a beautiful book from the first sentence to the last. DiCamillo somehow manages to evoke a sense of warmth despite the chill gloom of the book’s atmosphere, and Tanaka’s subdued illustrations perfectly complement the beautiful prose. Together, pictures and text render the whole book dreamlike and magical, lyrical and hopeful. Truly a must-read.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

I haven’t read this book since junior high, which is (scarily) almost 25 years ago. I liked it well enough then. I loved it now. Tolkien’s language is so beautiful in places that I wanted to eat it.

Several times, I stopped and made the kids listen to sentences a second time, just because they were so fabulous. They humored me. I didn’t push my luck and make them listen a third time (though I often wanted to): they might have mutinied. After all, they wanted to find out what happened. And what happened was wonderful. Another book everyone should read (or maybe eat).

Since my reading list this month is so thin, I thought I’d round it out with a few riddles Doug, Jack, and I made up. Call it our little tribute to Tolkien. (For those of you who aren’t Tolkien readers, riddles figure crucially in The Hobbit; it’s how Bilbo escapes from Gollum and re-discovers the all-important ring.)

We’ll start with a couple easy ones:

Rings around eyes, rings around tail,
Scavenges garbage without fail.


Mute companion by day
At night fades away.

A harder one:

Around you by day, though straight at night,
Animal skin, a daily sight.

And my favorite:

A baseball team
Certain flowers
Roman cubs
Stars and towers. 

I’ll post the answers on Friday in the comments, but in the meantime, go ahead and take a stab at them.

Photo by Doug Ireton via Instagram.