Just a Barn Book

    My second child is very different from my first – in almost every way, it seems. It shouldn’t surprise me. Of course each person is different. I guess I just didn’t realize the differences would present themselves so early on.  Before he can even talk, he shows preferences for books that my daughter used to push to the side. Perhaps because of that, I, too haven’t presented some of the books I’d assumed he wouldn’t be interested in. But, to my surprise, he keeps reaching for Big Red Barn each night. Initially, I didn’t think there was anything particularly special about this book. It’s a story about animals (the children are out of sight) – frolicking and playing on a farm, before it is time for them to all go to sleep at the end of the day. My son loves to point out each of the animals – perhaps he likes the illustrations – simple and bold. Maybe it’s the calming way they all head up to the barn to go to sleep. Lately he loves to point to the moon on the last page. The book has grown on me. As with any book we read again and again, I’ve begun to pick up on small details I’d overlooked the first few reads. On the page where the bats fly out of the barn at the end of the day, there is a small (tiny) cluster of bats on the upper right corner of the page. You might miss it if you don’t spend enough time looking at the page.
    Where before I’d been paraphrasing and making up some of the lines, now I feel like I owe it to the author to do justice with her words. And, some small part of me feels like my son knows when I’m cheating. Though I’ve been asking for book recommendations all year, it occurred to me that he was urging me to take a second look – to think more about a book I’d initially overlooked. This idea reminds me of a line from Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids (which I just finished and absolutely loved, by the way). When talking about her time as a music reviewer, she writes: “I wasn’t interested in criticizing so much as alerting people to artists they may have overlooked.” That’s how I’ve always felt about books and talking about books. It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s opinion on a book – especially when they manage to make you consider the book from a different perspective. So that’s what my one-year-old has done for me. He has encouraged me to reconsider Big Red Barn and now I’m a fan. It’s a simple, soothing, poetically-charged going-to-bed-book. One often overshadowed by its popular older sister: Goodnight Moon (or perhaps younger, don’t know which was published first?). But there it is…

What we’re reading now: Last night my daughter dug up the My Pretty Pink Counting Purse

Why: You know how I feel about this one, but in the spirit of reconsidering, I noticed on the back cover last night that the book is published by a small press in the English Countryside called Make Believe Ideas, that appears to be extremely eco-friendly. From their site:

We manufacture with paper from sustainable forests.
Whenever possible, we print with renewable biodegradable soya inks.
We check our suppliers’ working conditions.

                                          We believe in recycling waste and saving energy

So perhaps this is standard in this business, but I just tried to find that kind of transparance on Melissa and Doug’s web site, and I couldn’t….I guess you can’t judge a book by its cover:)

What I’m looking for:  Quality self-published books…

Grilled Cheese To Bed

    So we’ve recently recovered from some nasty summer viruses in this house…sleepless nights, cranky days…it has left me absolutely wiped by the end of the day. Usually reading time is my favorite part of the day, but on these days I was so tired I could barely muster the energy to read even the shortest of stories. There are other days I’ve felt this way. Too tired to read the longer books and there are days when I do have the energy for the long ones, but my daughter does not have the attention span. So I often skim or summarize or even make up my own stories. She loves the illustrations in the Swedish story, Children of the Forest, but is too young to follow or appreciate the plot at this point. She has begun to ask for Make Way For Ducklings a recent birthday gift, but loses interest half-way thru if I don’t shorten the story. I wonder if other parents do this? I imagine they must, but then again all children have different levels of focus and interests, so some may always be able to remain true to the text.
    Last night after another long weekend, I was reminded of my daughter’s age (three) and attention level (not so great) when I tried to read her another new b-day gift: The Giving Tree. This is one we all remember and cherish from childhood. My husband saw it in my hands and remarked: “That’s a good one.” The story is laid out so simply with just a few lines on each page; it’s easy for her to follow. Though it is a bit long, so she did begin to get impatient towards the end, but I’m not giving up on this one. We followed up this classic with another new one: Race You To Bed about a silly bunny on his harried way to bed, with absurdest lines like: “All around a goat to bed,” and “Grilled cheese to bed.” The latter is her favorite line, and she keeps asking for “the grilled cheese book.”
     At a recent book club, one of my friends was complaining that all of the books we choose are too depressing — but the roots of literary fiction are Tragic, aren’t they? You could say the same for some of the literary picture books. To a three-year-old, The Giving Tree could be viewed as a sad, lonely story. Even a few lines in Goodnight Moon veer towards existentialism: “Goodnight Nobody,” it reads on a blank, white page. Max is clearly working out some of his own angst issues in Where The Wild Things Are. So I won’t feel bad for skimming lines or for putting off some of the more “literary” picture books until she’s ready for them. Both of my kids have all of their adult lives to navigate thru any kind of real Tragedy or Comedy they encounter. If they’re lucky, they’ll experience a wonderful story like A Winter’s Tale, my favorite Shakespeare play and his only Tragicomedy, in my opinion — but, perhaps more on that one in my next post