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Mommaday: Books

I love books. I like to buy em, to smell em, listen to em, stack em, to research em and oh yeah- to read em. I even buy cookbooks to read and rarely end up actually cooking out of them.

I am lucky enough to have a pretty big collection of the ones I grew up with. And then realizing the need for board books with babies tendency to go fiber-seeking, I started buying them prenatally from the likes of Ross and TJ Maxx where they were so reasonably priced that I cared little for the content. There are only a few I’ve been outwardly disappointed with. Generally I think I’m pretty non-judgemental of the subject matter. I buy into the theory that it doesn’t matter what you read, just that you read.

But as  time has gone on, and I’ve read the same ones again and again. I’ve become a bit hyper-critical of what I like to see in a kids book. And the more specific it gets the less satisfied I am. I find myself rewording the ones we have as time goes on. And then wondering to myself why the author didn’t word it that way in the first place. From the simplest of lines in Sandra Boynton’s, “Moo, Baa, La, La, La”. Where the book follows an easy to learn pattern. So easy that it was the first book that Zuzu “read” back to us. Except for the duck page. Every other page says a different animal’s version of “The cow says Moo!”. Except the duck page which reads, “Quack, says the duck!” Each time Zuzu gets to that page she says “The duck says Quack!” And every time I have a mental debate about correcting the order of the words to what Ms. Boynton actually wrote. Which has me thinking I’m missing the point and not enjoying the moment of pride that I should be focusing on- that she’s reciting the book!

I find myself debating this with countless other books that seem to be going for a rhyming theme or a sing-songy flow and then we get to a page and the rhythm breaks and I wonder if the author read it out loud before submitting it.

And then there is the classic children’s literature that usually involves the death or near-death and punishment of  small children or animals in order to convey a moral lesson or particular value. I guess I’m most disturbed with this. I understand most were written in a time when children were supposed to be seen and not heard and the easiest parenting route was to scare them into submission. But really- did the cradle have to fall in the bedtime anthem?

I”m really not a prude- but I know I have little to no stomach for violence.  The first time I showed Charlie Brown’s  “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!” when Zuzu was 2 I had to turn it off with all the World War I Flying Ace battle scenes. She was scared by the gunfire. We moved on to The Muppets which I remember loving to watch each night when I was little and she asked me why the pig kept hitting the frog when we don’t hit! She had a point, so back to the library the DVD went. Disney movies are the same and get the same reaction. Inevitably there is a scary scene. Perhaps I’m protecting them too much. But I just really don’t see the need for wee ones to be exposed to violence  for the sake of character development quite so early on.

So the search goes on for good books. I now am one of those folks perusing the award lists, trying them out on my lunch hour at the library before bringing them home.

It started early- reading to Zuzu while I nursed- but she was not a mellow baby and it would inevitably turn into her yanking at the book and not focusing on nursing. And early on reading to her while she was in her swing before bed. Way too early to get a reaction…and wondering what I was doing but doing it anyway.

Then along came the Quail- books, books, books. It was her second sign (right after food- genetic proof of my parenthood if ever I’ve seen it) and if you get a book out you best have a good nother 20 minutes to read it to her over and over…she’s not letting it go. She sits attentitively and as soon as your done, signs book, please again. If you put away; she crawls over to it. It does make me wonder- she was exposed in utero to nightly bedtime stories all along. Maybe those pre-natal headphones aren’t so gimmicky after all!

Right now the girls are pretty consistent in their preferences. For the Quail it’s Elmo’s So Big, Touch & Feel books (we have a number of them and she LOVES each and every one), Leslie Patricelli’s Blankie and Higher, Higher and the one that wins them both over anything by Dora. For Zuzu the first choice is always Dora, so we’ve limited it to one Dora book a night and then she can choose two others. Faves are Fancy Nancy, The Goodnight Train, Firefighter Ted and any of The Pigeon or Llama, Llama’s antics. 

Now that I’m done waxing rhapsodic…what about you? Favorite baby books, kid’s story books or lit for Momma’s entertainment?


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