Book Problems

The books are a little out of control around here.

20130923_074121I’ve been trying to keep the board books in the basket and the paper books in the cabinet, so the baby doesn’t eat all the “nice” books. But the basket is getting too small. And maybe it doesn’t look like there are a lot of books in that cabinet, but if we stuff more in there, they fall out on whoever opens the door.

And then there is this shelf.

20130923_074152I’m not sure I even know what is on there anymore.

Not pictured: the bag of library books, the ones on the beds, the ones next to the chair, the ones on the couch. In addition to tripping over tiny cars and trains every time I go into a room, which I expected as the mom of boys, I keep finding books all over the place. Which is great! Except when I want to clean up! I also have five books waiting to be picked up from the library and they won’t let me put any others on hold until I go get the ones that are already there.

I feel the urge to simplify. Too many things! All over my house! Somewhere in my brain is a little closet where my “throw it away” personality lives. But, arg, when it’s books it’s so much harder. The good ones are beloved, so beloved. The bad ones … wait, there aren’t any bad ones. I already got rid of the bad ones. The ones we have outgrown are all chewed on. And there aren’t very many of those anyway.

So, maybe we just need a bigger basket?

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Dinosaur Roar!

What does it mean when a one year old has a favorite book? Kids (ok, babies) at this age are still a little like dogs (a lot like dogs? I’m leaning toward a lot like dogs). When they get sick, you try to measure how bad it is by how they are eating and pooping. You ask yourself if the quality of their sleep is different. You hem and haw about taking them to the doctor because the doctor is just going to do the same thing you’re doing at midnight, which is guess. And then no matter the diagnosis you end up with the advice of “wait and see” which is also what you get when you take a sick dog to the vet. I guess my point is: tiny children are mysteries.

So when a one year old kid looks at a book with that look on his face – fascinated, amazed, delighted – what exactly is he responding to? What about it is different from all the other books in the basket or piled in the corner or whatever? My one year old (pause while I freak out that he’s already a whole year old) is in love with this book: Dinosaur Roar! by Paul and Henrietta Strickland.

dinosaur roarHe will dig through the other board books with some determination until he finds it, will carry it over to me using both hands, and sit in rapt wonder as I read it to him for the sixieth time. Then he grabs it, shoves it back in my hands, and signs “more.” If I’m not quick to start it up again, he will open up my hand and place it on the binding. Which is one-year-old speak for “Do it again, silly.” And if I should dare approach him with another book, he will swat it right out of my hands and go find the dino book again. He does not have time for Maisy’s Fire Engine; more Dinosaur Roar!

This book has a lot going for it. Colorful pictures: yes. Repetition: yes. Simple concept of opposites: yes. And then it has a punchline at the end as well. I like a good punchline. Maybe Donovan does, too.

Related Activities:

Teach Your Baby About Opposites: I think this would be great if, say, you were leaving your baby with someone for a few hours who said they don’t know what to “do” with the baby. Well, here. Walk around the house and play with stuff.

Makes Opposites Cards. Take photos of your kid and make cards out of them. I need to do this. I think we would wear them out.

Dinosaur Costume: Because Halloween is coming up. And also just because this is a really cute picture of a baby dressed like a dinosaur.

And just in case anyone needs another, here is my kid. Dressed like a lion, but it’s close.

donovan lion

This post is part of Perfect Picture Book Friday hosted by Susanna Leonard Hill. She gets the best recommendations from the best people about the best books for kids. Every week.

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Look What Arrived!

I took the moon for a walk

We just got a whole box of books from Barefoot Books! This was my prize for winning a contest at Mothering.com for a post I wrote for World Breastfeeding Week. You can read the post here, if you like: On Motherhood.

I Took the Moon for a Walk has to be my favorite book from this collection. We read it quite frequently and it is perfect for a bedtime book. I enjoy the rhyme and rhythm of it, which I don’t often say because sometimes I feel like the rhyming in children’s books is kind of overwhelming. Usually, it’s fine and sometimes it’s fun, but I don’t generally fall into the camp of “I love this poem!” But I am making an exception here. I also like that the story shows a child exploring the world at night without being scared or monitored by his parents. It was the kind of thing I always wanted to do when I was a kid – and something I did do a lot when I was older.

I’ve raved before about Barefoot Books because their website features free podcasts of children’s audio books. I highly recommend these if a.) you are tired of reading to your kids (it is ok to admit that it happens), b.) your child keeps asking for the same story on repeat, c.) you need something to listen to on a roadtrip. When Finn was quite young, maybe 2 years old, we found he enjoyed listening to audiobooks once he already knew the story. Our favorite was The Gingerbread Man. I told him a simple version of it, then we listened to it together for a few minutes, and before long he was requesting it after naptime.

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Review: Clockwork

I have some astonishing news! I read a book for me. It was even fiction and not a parenting book. And, ok, it was really a book meant for kids, but still, it had chapters and everything and only a few pictures. It was Clockwork by Philip Pullman.

I know I am not alone in adoring Pullman’s other work, specifically The Golden Compass. I had never heard of Clockwork until recently and it is a cute, creepy story. I would recommend this book for kids who are reading on their own and want something scary, but maybe aren’t up for Coraline-levels of scary yet.

Wow, that was a super short review. Maybe this is why I only talk about picture books.

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Thoughts I Had While Reading Lyle, Lyle Crocodile

I’ve said this before, somewhere: when I wind up reading the same book dozens of times, I have to find a way to keep it interesting. Here are some of the thoughts I recently had while reading Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile by Bernard Waber for many, many days in  row.

Look at all the square footage in this New York apartment/house. Holy moly.

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Mrs. Primm and Lyle sure do spend a lot of time together.

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Now it’s starting to look like they are on dates.

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My favorite page in the book. Says the information lady, “I have no information about a crocodile wearing a red scarf.” If I ever work at an information booth, I am going to start every sentence with “I have information/no information about …”

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I am a little traumatized that Lyle has been sent to the zoo. Don’t cry! Why am I such a wimp about crying in children’s books?

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Oh, good, Lyle gets to come back from the zoo and everyone is happy. And it looks like Mrs. Primm has her nose back.

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Finn loves this book and asked for the “Lild”story almost every night. His favorite part is the character of Mr. Grumps. He asks where Mr. Grumps is on every page and when a page does not contain any pictures of Mr. Grumps, he is unhappy. I would gladly buy a book entirely devoted to the adventures of Mr. Grumps.

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Paper Trains

When Finn woke up for a nap the other day he was completely inconsolable. He told he me had dreamed of a train. “An orange streamlined train,” he said. I thought maybe he meant this train, which we recently saw on TV.

daylight steam engine

In a lame-mom move, trying to make it all better, I reminded him that he has an orange train named Billy, one of Thomas the Tank Engine’s friends. This was not what he wanted to hear and the tears started down his face fresh. “I want a train with no face!” he shouted.

I can’t remember what I did next (maybe a snack? that is how I solve most of his problems), but about an hour later he brought Billy to me and asked me to cover up his face. “Put paper on him, Mommy,” he said. “Make his face … not.”

So this is a thing now. We have covered all his Thomas trains in paper.

paper trains

At first I thought we would get out markers and decorate them and make new trains, but that was a crazy Pinterest mom idea. He just wants them plain. Maybe then it’s easier to pretend they are anything he wants.

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OMG I Hate Tootle

Before Finn was born — you know, when I had time — I scored a giant laundry basket full of children’s books on freecycle.  I had to drive far away to get them, but it was full of gems: The Napping House, several Carl books, Goodnight Moon, The Runaway Bunny, The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

And then there was Tootle.

tootle

I didn’t really think too much about it and tossed it aside with all the other “not board books,” like a Disney Princess one called Thanks, Dopey (which has since become a refrain around here: Can you find my shoes? Thanks, Dopey!), and an Arthur book containing the original old school artwork.  At some point, Finn grew up enough not to eat all his books, or at least not right away. And then he started loving trains. And then he found Tootle. And then we had to read Tootle fifty times a day.

I don’t say hate a whole lot. But I hate Tootle.

Tootle was one of the first Golden Books, which you can tell because he is on the back of every other Golden Book you’ve ever seen.  Him and that strange tugboat. So, maybe I should cut Tootle some slack for being old as the hills. But I don’t want to.

The plot of Tootle is this: Tootle is a young engine at train school where he is supposed to be learning how to pull trains.  The only lesson he can’t quite understand is Staying On The Rails No Matter What, and yes, that is what they call it in the book.  He likes to jump the rails so he can frolic in a meadow full of flowers.  Based on the illustrations, you might think this is code for doing drugs, as someone was clearly high when they did the pictures.

Just when you think the moral is going to make an appearance, and that Tootle will end up being a “special” train who is allowed to drive wherever he wants, the townspeople get together to trick and bully Tootle (he cries, seriously) into getting back on the rails.  Then he learns his lesson and never thinks about leaving the rails ever again. THE END.

What??

The subtext is pretty clear to me.  Trains are destined for a pretty strict purpose.  An engine might have a choice here or there, like whether he wants to go fast or haul a lot of freight, but trains are really just meant to be like all the trains that have come before them. Trains are not supposed to have dreams of being different.  Trains are not supposed to experiment.  Or maybe Tootle teaches us that trains can experiment sometimes, like at school or when they are very young, but Tootle is pretty clear on the point that only “traditional” trains will be successful.  Get jobs. Be happy. Fall in love, maybe? I know I am projecting right now, but this book makes me mad, y’all.

So here is my addendum that I wish I could paste into the back of every copy of Tootle — which, BTW, was re-released as part of the Golden Books Classics series, so it’s readily available for purchase right now: traditional trains are limited in where they can go and what they can do, and because of that they have been replaced in many cases by cars, which are more fluid, more versatile, and  more diverse in how they get from place to place. Take your life off the rails if you feel like it; frolic among the flowers if you want.  Just get yourself from right now to the end of your life in a way that makes you happy.

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