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