January is Read Aloud Month for us. Actually, every month is read aloud month–but January is the month we participate in the Read Aloud Challenge–each family member is to read aloud for 10 minutes per day.

We have lots of favorites–but one recent highlight is Elise Primavera’s, Ms. Rapscott’s Girls. The title and cover must have juked my expectations–because once we got into it, I was surprised to find a delight reminiscent of Mary Poppins. The book has very broad appeal through its wit, insight, irony, and style (Nothing wrong with the cover, by the way).

Parenting in the twenty-first century can be madness–a flurry of activity represented by a coded calendar of competing schedules. Each opportunity is wonderful–as is each golden straw we place on the back of our tawny dromedary. Saying No to an opportunity somehow feels like parental neglect. Yet now we risk actual neglect as a result of over-scheduling. Primavera knows the problem.

She takes it on humorously, but obliquely–ensuring her wisdom steals past our watchful dragons–by introducing us to ridiculous parents who make our calendars seem tame by comparison. Their problem isn’t over-scheduling their children’s lives–they’ve over-booked themselves. And Primavera’s not only confronting the problem of busyness, but winsomely teaching children empathy and resilience through: The Great Rapscott School for Girls of Busy Parents; Headmistress Ms. Rapscott’s eccentric wisdom; and the formative adventures and lessons of her girls.

So, today I think I’ll indulge myself by giving you an extended passage that made me laugh out loud and shake my head at the same time. (If you want to pretend I’m reading it to you maybe it will count toward my Read Aloud Challenge minutes for today.)

Of all the girls, Dahlia Thistle’s family had the distinction of being the busiest. Dahlia’s mother wrote a very popular blog about the trials and tribulations of being a mom. This took a lot of her time, but it was difficult because Dahlia was always crying over something like a bad dream, and always badgering her mother to read her a bedtime story.

So Dahlia’s mother gave her to her father who was a professional comment writer. He wrote comments on the Internet about toothpaste, shoelaces, shaving cream, dishwashing detergent, bug spray, slipcovers, you name it. When he wasn’t writing comments, Dahlia’s father played miniature golf and participated in Civil War reenactments. He was so busy he gave Dahlia to her grandmother.

It’s not that her grandmother didn’t love her–it’s just that she was busy too. Dahlia’s grandmother was learning Chinese, taking a synchronized swimming class three days a week, and regularly attended seminars in estate planning. She had no time, so she gave Dahlia to her niece Denise, the dog walker. Denise was busy walking dogs, and she was going to school full-time to become a child psychologist, so she had no time for Dahlia either. Denise gave Dahlia to her mother, Dahlia’s great-aunt. Dahlia’s great-aunt was always on the go too, though, and if she didn’t get to meet her friends in the morning to go mall walking, she tended to get cranky.

It became complicated and hard to keep track of where Dahlia Thistle was from one day to the next. As a result she was misplaced more times than a set of keys. She got left by the water fountain in the park, the seventh hole on the miniature golf course, and the food court at the mall, to name but a few.

Everybody was too busy for Dahlia.

“Big girls can take care of themselves and aren’t always getting lost, Dahlia,” her mother, her father, her grandmother, her grandmother’s niece Denise, and her great-aunt said.

But Dahlia was not a big girl. In fact she was a very small one because her parents were so busy they’d forgotten to remind her to grow, and she hadn’t budged an inch since she was five years old. This is how Dahlia Thistle became Known for Being a Late Bloomer.

Elise Primavera, Ms. Rapscott’s Girls, 37-41.