You might think a non-fiction book about buildings would be dry--just plain boring. But not to a first grader. We turned to a building with pillars and a statue. One boy said, "Hey--that looks like a courthouse. My grandma's been to a courthouse, because my cousin was standing up in the car." My advice to myself at that point was to ask no questions and turn the page.
His friend couldn't have cared less about the courthouse or the kid standing up in the car. He was busy examining his arm. "I'm sort of Italian," he blurts out. "Because Italian people have skin like mine. I'm like my brother--he's half Italian." He pauses for a second and looks up at the ceiling, as if he is searching his brain. "My dad is....what's that language they speak in Pennsylvania?"
"English?" I ask. (I should know better than to get into this conversation.)
"No. That's not it," he says (with a disgusted you-should-know-'cause-you're-the-teacher-tone.)
"You know," he says. "The people we had a war with?"
Another thing about six-year-olds is that the line between fantasy and reality can be very hazy. Eight-year-olds aren't much different. I had the King of the Liars in my class when I was teaching third grade. He was great. Everyday he had been on a different adventure. If he didn't catch my attention on the first go around, he upped the ante. "I went down in a volcano in a helicopter," he told me one day. Then, of course he had to add, "...while it was erupting."
My friend told me to start calling him on it. "Ask for proof," my friend said.
So the next day he tells me he has a skeleton. "I found it in a swamp," he says. (Seattle is pretty wet, but there isn't much swamp land that I know of.)
I remember my friend's advice. "Bring it," I say. "Bring your swamp skeleton to school."
The next morning I am working at my desk and I hear a knock on the window behind me.
There is the King of the Liars, holding up a not-all-the-way-decomposed cat skeleton.
I guess the line between truth and fiction is a hazy one.