We lost power for five days a couple of weeks ago. It wasn’t actually as bad as I’d imagined it could be. Here’s when that little electronic device may lose its battery, right? During times like these, you quickly realize how reliant you may have become on all things electric. There did seem to be somewhat of a backlash developing for thus of us who went without for so long. One of my close friends spoke to me about how nice it was to be together with her family without any electronic temptations…So, in our house we spent some time with glue and scissors (hers, the kind that can only cut jagged edges on paper)—but this quickly became frustrating for both of us. We tried cards and matching games, some puzzles and a few towers, but it was really the books that saved the day. We’re still only working with a moderately short attention span (which I imagine will be the case for a few years to come at least), so I was so happy that this perfect book arrived in the mail from a family friend yesterday. It’s called Beautiful Oops! –definitely a new favorite. It’s a medium-sized board book with really creative plays on all of the “oops” we may possibly encounter each day and how they can be transformed into imaginative images or designs. So, for example, a tear in the first page becomes an alligator’s mouth when you flip the page. A coffee stain becomes a frog with its tongue sticking out. I like this book for some many reasons, but mainly for its ability to present the idea of a metamorphosis in such simple yet unique ways. It seems like their young little lives are marked by metamorphosis daily. Now that I have a young baby, I can’t help but stare at my three-year-old’s face throughout the day, searching for the baby she used to be, that I spent so many countless hours with…and of course, it’s still happening. And she loves when I tell her stories about “when she was a baby…”
        Her next big change is starting preschool this week. I had been on the lookout for a book about starting school and found the perfect one at a local children’s store called Krik-it. It’s aptly named First Day Of School, and was exactly what I’d been searching for: the day is described using simple and familiar language. It is a book with no frills, but sometimes that’s all we need, right? And it’s the one she keeps asking for each night.
What we’re reading now: see above : First Day of School – I could almost recite it by memory at this point.
Why: Why? Because she likes it:)

What I’m looking for: books for six-month-old boys!

La La La

“You should praise the muliltated world.
Remember the moments we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaved eddied over the earth’s scars.” -Adam Zagajewski

     This is excerpted from the poem, “Try To Praise The Mutilated World,” that was reprinted in The New Yorker shortly after 9-11-01. The words and images have stayed with me for the past ten years. I didn’t think I’d be so emotional today, but it’s hard to escape the coverage on t.v. – the eeriness of the similarly perfect weather. I was a student-teacher at Laguardia High School ten years ago today. I stood in front of thirty intimidating fourteen-year-old faces and had to put on a brave face while my dad — who worked at the World Trade Center — was unreachable.  I quickly became responsible for the safety of these thirty students, while internally cowering at the sound of any loud noise outside. I’d say it was the day I grew up.
     I’m so sad for the people who lost their loved ones. I look at my children and think about how they have no idea what happened…no idea that they could have lost their grandfather. No idea how fortunate they are, how unfortunate others were. They will read about that day at some point in their future – perhaps with me, or if not, most certainly in a classroom. They will see images, too, but the most impressionable stories will certainly be the ones passed down from friends or friends of friends. They will know someone touched by the tragedy, if not first-hand, perhaps second or third. My family was lucky. My dad was able to escape from the crumbling towers and lived to see four of his grandchildren come in to the world over the past ten years.
     Today, reading with them is the necessary but welcome escape from thinking about the tragedy. La La La – still the absurd in daily life. La La La – I”ll think about it another time. La La La, life is still innocent in the minds of most children…

The Untouchables

     I have realized lately that I have my real reading life with my children and then, the imagined one – the one where I revisit my favorites from childhood. It’s strange to think that my memory most likely does not go back as far as my daughter’s current age. I have solid memories of reading and rereading certain picture books as a child, but none of them board books. I have not been able to resist stocking our shelves with some of these books as I eagerly anticipate my children growing into them. The one I remember most fondly is Fables – did you read this one? It has the pale blue border around the cover that frames the bear with the frying pan on his head. I loved this collection initially for the funny tales but eventually I think as an adult, they represent specific moments of growth. So the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree- if parents chew with their mouth open and run around during meal times, so will their offspring…that’s the one that has always stuck with me. Along side Fables are This Is New York and This Is Paris – two places I’ve lived, books given to me by a dear friend and fellow bibliophile to commemorate these experiences. These are beautiful picture books (originally published in 1960) – almost coffee-table worthy, with fine paper and exquisite illustrations.
    The problem with these books, I’ve realized, is that they have been somewhat put on a pedestal – they are on a high shelf that my daughter cannot reach, until I like to imagine, she is old enough – truly old enough to not tear the pages. I even have a few that my mother saved from her childhood. I just can’t risk it…but then again, a friend with older children told me I will get over it when my second child has earlier access to the untouchable books…I guess we’re all a little more laid back the second time around. Still, it makes me the think of a story of one of my English professors from college. My roommate visited her office one afternoon and was awestruck with the amount of books stocked on her shelves. “Have you read all of these?” she asked incredulously and the professor nodded. “But I’m not sure why. I’m not sure what it all means now.” Okay, so this sounds like a strange anecdote to tell on a blog about reading, but it does make me think. It makes me realize that I’m so happy I don’t feel this way. I’ve always had tons of book lining my shelves, and once in a while I’ll glance around at the spines and think about the time I’ve spent with them. For me, it’s not time wasted; I’ve always loved books and reading, and I also love to reread, but when thinking about books and reading to children, it’s time spent with your kids. So you’ll look at the books on your kids’ shelves and you know what they represent – along with literacy and learning for your child, it’s quality time spent with you.

What we’re reading now: Ladybug Girl At The Beach

Why: Another one from my mom and my daughter loves – all about what we’ve done at the beach this summer – playing in the sand, exploring, ice cream, swimming…

What I’m looking for: any good baby boy recommendations?