Wednesday, September 12, 2007


The sweet girl has always been intrigued by homonyms. One of her favorite sentences, and a sentence that has now graced our refrigerator (in plastic letter magnets) for several months, is "A bare bear has no clothes." She and her Daddy had a terrific time coming up with that one, and discussing the differences between "bare" and "bear," a discussion which never ceases to fascinate her. (It helps a lot that she dresses several of her teddy bears each day!).

Today we were reading the wonderful James Herriot story "Only One Woof." We read all of the stories in James Herriot's Treasury for Children last fall, but it's been long enough ago that she doesn't remember the stories well (a year can feel like a really long time to a five year old!). I've loved Herriot's stories myself, both for children and adults, for years, and autumn just feels like the right time to get them back out again.

"Only One Woof" is the story of a sheepdog...well, two sheepdogs, Gyp and Sweep, who are brothers. One of the things I love about Herriot is that his vocabulary always challenges: he doesn't dumb things down for a young audience in any way. I stopped once in a while to explain a word, but mostly I let the wonderful, rustic Yorkshire music of his prose just play against our ears, knowing that most of the meaning will come out in the wash eventually, as it always does with good writing.

But this morning, S. suddenly stopped me. "Mommy," she said, looking puzzled, "what were the sheepdogs hearing?"

"What?" I asked, not understanding what she was asking.

"What are they HEARING?" she persisted. And I think she added something like "Are they hearing the sheep?"

Light dawned slowly, but it finally dawned. We had been reading about how the sheepdogs would "herd" the sheep. Quite sensibly, she thought they "heard" them. After all, sheep are noisy!

So now we have a new homonym to play with. The sheepdogs heard the sheep saying baa, and it was their job to herd them into the barnyard.

For a very fun and thorough list of homonyms, check out this great website which I just stumbled onto this afternoon.


Erin said...

Only One Woof is such a bittersweet story. Hmm, now I have a hankering to sit down with one of Herriot's books and a mug of hot cider - another great thing about fall!

Hooray for homonyms! I had a homonym moment earlier this week. I guess we must have been talking about the calendar kiosk because Mom asked me, "Are you done being stocked now?" (We were, at least until the next shipment...) What I heard, however, was "Are you done being stalked?" And I was racking my brain and not remembering having been stalked in the first place... :-P

Thanks for the link! Looking forward to perusing that!

Beth said...

Hee! Glad to hear you're not being stalked anyway!

There is something about certain seasons that move me to read certain authors. Autumn and Herriot just seem to go together. Oh, and while I'm sheepdog mode :-) I just finished reading Dick King-Smith's *Babe* earlier today. I told myself that I was checking out its potential as a read-aloud for Sarah (and of course, it will be great for that) but really I just wanted to read it. I loved the movie years ago, but had never read the book. It's lovely!

Erin said...

I became a Dick King-Smith fan after I went looking for the book, since I loved the movie so much. I'm really looking forward to The Water Horse this fall!

Beth said...

Ooh, there's a new one? I'm really getting into him. I've been sick this week with a sinus infection (started a couple of days ago, got lots worse yesterday/last night) so I re-watched Babe the movie (hadn't seen it in years) and also read another King-Smith book, this one called "The School Mouse." Exciting to know there's a new one on the way, though I've still got oodles of his old stuff to catch up with!

Hope the kiosk is going well. Your going back to the kiosk is becoming a yearly time-marker for me...I know it must be fall!

Erin said...

Hehe, yeah, it's kinda like going back to school! Actually, The Water Horse is coming out as a movie this year, though I'm guessing the book is fairly recent; I'd never heard of it before, and I've read a couple dozen of his books...