When my Paul was that age, he wasn't in love with Moby-Dick; it was Shakespeare he adored. He would lug my omnibus Shakespeare down the stairs, open it up, and start laboriously sounding out the names of the characters. Frequently, that was as far as he got, but even speaking the word Hamlet or Richard III was intoxicating. We would rent Laurence Olivier versions of the plays and watch them in 20-minute spurts. Almost in spite of himself, his attention span would break: somehow his brain was unable to concentrate for very long on this material, but he kept solemnly trying to whip his concentration into shape.
My older son, James, did not care a bit about hard books. At age 6, he was busy building complicated structures out of tape and baling twine or trying to draw landscapes in perspective or making beautiful little horses out of clothespins. The varieties of child brilliance are breathtaking.
Which reminds me: my friend Ruth, who is a fifth-grade teacher, recently recounted a comment she overheard in her classroom "from a very unexpected little boy: 'If you can't write poetry, you probably can't write a good paragraph.'" Haven't I been perorating lately about sentence-driven poems? Clearly, this child did not need to read anything I had to say on the matter.