I love reading, but for the past eight months most of my reading has consisted of online news and blogs, magazines and children’s board books. And to be completely honest, e-mail, Facebook and other stuff I have to read for “work” have taken precedence over novels or other headier stuff. I’d like to say I could have an intelligent conversation about a great book I just read, but nope. Sad, but that’s not where I am right now. So I’m not setting a great example for Wren yet on my book consumption, although I’d love for her to be a big reader and have interesting insights into things she’s read. For this reason, we sit down and read a pile of different books about three times a day. Or I sit and she mostly wriggles around on my lap and tries to chew on the corners. Hhmmm, fiber. Here are some things I’ve concluded about children’s books so far…
- Sleep. Most children’s books seem to be about going to bed, inducing sleep, and sleeping soundly through the night. zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. While I see the value in sleep–I REALLY DO–I don’t think books should be primarily used as sleep-inducers. And the topic of sleep isn’t really all that thought-provoking, is it? Bor-ing! I think this is one reason I don’t really believe Goodnight, Moon is as wonderful as everyone seems to think it is. In fact, people think it’s so great that we have three copies of it. I realize this is a very unpopular opinion and I don’t mean to sound ungrateful. You aren’t really reading this to have all of your opinions affirmed, right? Furthermore, the illustrations stink. The Margaret Wise Brown book I do love, however, is Big Red Barn. Admittedly, the topic of going to sleep is a fundamental part of this book too, but I think it’s done much better. It has a more interesting, easy, thoughtful cadence and this goes a long way to a parent’s enjoyment, which leads me to another thought.
- Good children’s books are enjoyable for all parties involved. Illustrations, cadence and a meaningful story line. Is this asking too much? At least two of the three need to be present to win me over. This doesn’t preclude the fact that there are plenty of books that kids love that parents hate, but we read them anyway…
- Like any decent cookbook, a children’s book should be a good read. There are some ridiculously awful story lines out there. How did they ever get published? And how is it that people continue to spend $7.95 on them? Ugghh. For example…
Baby loves Peekaboo!
In the morning, Kitty loves playing peekaboo. Where is she hiding? Peekaboo! Let’s pet kitty, too! Meow! (Enter an ugly kitty stuffed animal.)
When we do the laundry, Teddy loves playing peekaboo. Where is he hiding? Peekaboo, Fluffy Teddy, we love you! (Enter ugly bear stuffed animal.)
At playtime, my horse loves peekaboo. Where is he hiding? Peekaboo! Let’s tickle his tummy, too! Neigh! (Enter… you get the idea, right?)
I have one more unpopular opinion to share. Although in many, many ways, I love the book Olivia, there is one part I just can’t get past. You know the part where Olivia goes to the museum and she sees a Jackson Pollock painting? She says to her mother, “I could do that in about five minutes.” And then she goes home and tries it herself, etc. What really annoys me is that the mother doesn’t help Olivia to understand Pollock and his place in art history – perfect opening for discourse on modern art, right? I know, this is just a children’s book. But I can’t help but be annoyed by it. It reminds me of when I was a kid and my parents took us to see an Andy Warhol exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Art. There was another family there and the kid asked something to the effect of, “why did he use all those crazy colors?” And the mother said, “it’s OK, honey, he was on drugs.” WHAT?! Scarred that child’s perception of color and design for life, I’m sure. The fact that he was on drugs was beside the point. I digress (again.)
So here are a few books I DO love and willingly read several times a day with my little fidgety birdie:
I love Wayne Thiebaud paintings so this simple counting book is a joy to read.
The Grouchy Ladybug. This book is awesome – I love Eric Carle’s illustrations and the story is classic. Plus it explores concepts of time, shapes, manners, sizes, nature, etc. Love!
Ready, Set, Go! and Peek-a WHO? by Nina Laden. Fun wood-block print illustration style, bright colors, anticipatory rhymes. So fun!
What books do you recommend, dear readers? What unpopular opinions would you like to share?
I have been searchng for a small board book by Richard Scarry starring Farmer Junco. I can’t remember whether it was insidious or not, seems to me it showed his industriousness. Anyway, we read that book to Chris every single night when he was about two or so – that’s the only one he wanted. Can’t find it anywhere, though, and I really did like Farmer Junco.
I will look for it when I’m in bookstores and garage sales. You never know!
Since my knowledge of art history begins with impressionism and ends with Van Gogh (maybe it’s not quite that bad, but close!), what *is* Jackson Pollock’s place in art history?
As far as Goodnight Moon goes, it’s not Margaret Wise Brown’s best, but even it becomes far more wonderful when taken with an appreciation of Margaret Wise Brown’s role in literary history!
Point on Brown taken, Dan. We should take a trip to the MOMA and I’ll show you Pollock’s real place in the art spectrum! Until then… here’s a snippet of theory on Pollock that YOU might enjoy pondering:
“Studies by Taylor, Micolich and Jonas have examined Pollock’s technique and have determined that some works display the properties of mathematical fractals. They assert that the works become more fractal-like chronologically through Pollock’s career. The authors even speculate that Pollock may have had an intuition of the nature of chaotic motion, and attempted to form a representation of mathematical chaos, more than ten years before “Chaos Theory” itself was proposed. Other experts suggest that Pollock may have merely imitated popular theories of the time in order to give his paintings a depth not previously seen.”