After I got home from school today, Maggie called me upstairs. She specifically requested me, rather than Mama, which is somewhat unusual. As I reached the top of the stairs, I saw her proudly holding one of Sarah’s new dresses, as if she were wearing it, with most of it bunched up on the floor.

I laughed and said something banal, but Maggie decided she wanted to show me what it looked like “for real.” She started yanking aggressively at the zipper at which point I began to wonder if this was a good idea. I asked, “Maggie, are you sure Mama is ok with this?”

“Well,” Maggie ponders, “I did it this morning too!”

I slowly digested this, when Sarah’s voice floats up the stairs, “What you meant to say, Maggie, was, ‘Mama told me I’m not allowed to wear her new clothes.'”

“Oh yeah.” Maggie rolls her eyes and tosses the dress back on the bed.

An Unexpected Party

The kids were ready for bed tonight with a good 45 minutes to spare. They wanted to play Munchkin, our current favorite game, but we’ve been playing a lot lately, so I suggested that we start a new book together. I told them that I had something in mind, and found the beautiful edition of The Hobbit that Sarah got for me many years ago. I’ve been putting off reading this with them because it is one of my favorite books; I didn’t want to drag them through it before they could appreciate it. And, truth be told, a small part of my heart would break if they didn’t find the magic in it.

With some trepidation I brought the book upstairs. Griffin was interested, with some reservations—we’ve had mixed results with chapter books. Maggie groaned and moaned, stating categorically that she didn’t like the book, despite knowing nothing about it. I told them a bit about the story—dwarves, goblins, a dragon—and we spent some time examining the beautiful cover. Griffin was in, but Maggie remained skeptical. I suggested that we give it a try.

As we began chapter one, “An Unexpected Party,” my fears were allayed. As I once was, they were captivated by the opening lines:

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.

They giggled about the worms and then wanted to know so much more about this comfortable hole. By the time the first dwarves made their appearance, they were laughing and exclaiming about everything. They loved Bilbo’s obsession with food, particularly cakes, and were in hysterics over the emptying of his many pantries. When things took a serious turn, with the song about the misty mountains and the dragon’s depredations, they were both completely hooked. Griffin announced, “this is the best book ever” and Maggie, in an uncharacteristic turn, agreed.

Tolkien’s original submission of the cover jacket for the first edition of The Hobbit. The 2007 Houghton Mifflin edition has a beautifully restored version of this.