Sunday, January 11, 2009

ban boring baby books, dammit!

OMG, if I have to read another round of "meeska mooska mickey mouse let's go to my clubhouse," I am going to end up crouched in the corner of a mental ward vacantly babbling "cheers we've got ears!" and "hot dog!" as I rock myself and stare off into space.

Why do so many children's board books bore me to tears? I'm supposed to use that enthusiastic mommy reading voice that intonates up at the end of each sentence when reading about such stimulating things as farm animals, front end loaders, and potties. Actually I don't mind the potty stuff due to my underground interest in all things poop.

Speaking of farm animals... Last Christmas I went to a free Santa photo shoot at our local public library where they generously gave out beautiful brand new books as gifts to the kiddies. They handed us a wonderful thick edition of  Golden Tales' Farm Tales - something like 20 stories in one. What a gold mine, I erroneously thought. A year-and-a-half later I find myself neighing, baaing, honking, mooing, quacking, woofing, meowing and cockadoodledooing about a thousand times too many every single morning as we take our obligatory tour through Farmer Jones' & Farmer Brown's farmyards over and over again. Oy fuckin' vey! 

I've flat out refused to re-read Smudge anymore, the on-the-edge-of-your-seat thriller about a dog who notices it's raining outside so he goes inside. And then it stops raining, so he goes outside again. Enticing story line. How does this shit get published? Every time I had to read Smudge I thought to myself, "Man, who the hell writes this crap anyway? Anything can get published as a kids book. I spent a year-and-a-half of blood, sweat, and tears and went into a grave amount of debt getting my brilliant book inspiring women to love their bodies published only to have it fail... while some simpleton writes a couple of  paragraphs about a dog going inside and outside and it actually winds up on my shelf."

Oh, and Curious George? Don't even get me started. Catatonia. Pure catatonia. 

Okay, so ending on a gracious note, I do love reading to my sons and there are actually two totally cool books I like reading the most:  Zen Shorts and The Three Questions. Both ironically deal with the eternal virtues of simply being present and of service to the one you're with. Which in my case boils down to getting real happy re-reading Smudge, Curious George and The Animals of Farmer Jones, 'cuz all that really matters is that my beautiful sons are in my lap, soft hands resting on my forearms, sweet eyes fixed on the page, ears tuned in to mommy... and I feel warm and whole and loved.


  1. I like the sweet ending to that rant. I'll have to look for Zen Shorts & The Three Questions. I like ...

    Fox in Socks, because it's one really long tongue twister - more fun the faster you try to read it

    Old Hat New Hat because in a very unpedantic way it's about appreciating what you have

    Are You My Mother? - the story of our lives...

  2. btw, i pitch the books i loathe reading, no matter how much ds loves them! unless it's one that dh likes, in which case, let him read it!

  3. Curious George is literature, pure and simple. George is a metaphor for every toddler. Think of it that way and you will never look at Mr. George Pampelmousse in the same way. (hah -bet you didn't know his last name...)

    I agree with Allie, crappy books get donated to Goodwill. Quickly.

    I have had the same opinion about children's books (I too spent a year writing a great novel only to have it rejected a couple dozen times --at least you got your book published) but then it struck me one day. It's not about the *writing*, it's *illustration* that sells children's books. So what I do when I find a book that is illustrated well but the story lacks, I just ad lib comment on each page, try to get Skyler to count the number of trains or cows or trees on the page, or tell me what's happening on the page, "look, here's a cow, what does a cow say?" that sort of thing. They're at the age where they can't tell what's actually written on the page yet and it makes it a fresh experience for them too.

    The more I read of Dr. Seuss the less I like of his work. His Cat in the Hat is clearly a masterpiece, and Fox in Socks is a fun tongue twister but if I have to read the lifted Lorax one more time I'll gag.

    There is another book that no child should be without and that's Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are." Playful, yet somewhat disturbing illustrations and the narrative is... well, lets just say it's no wonder it won the Caldecott medal, nuff said.

    (More photos please.)