Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lex-o-matic reading freak (when I'm with you)

I’m pretty sure the third thing I thought after I discovered I was pregnant was “if I don’t have this baby, who’s going to read all those children’s books I’ve collected?” I like to think that, since G-d finds the written word a pretty good medium for communication, maybe the best efforts of people are also in books. But also, I'm just a book fiend.

I love illustrated books. Those of Maurice Sendak, Adolf Born, Petr Sis, make you feel as if something strange and, if not wonderful, then mind-blowing and beautiful, were about to appear from just outside the frame

One of the biggest thrills of motherhood so far is that my baby loves to read. We often read together, but tonight she sat in my lap and looked carefully through 8 books while I read one of my own. We’ve found some pretty groovy board books. Her favorite by far is Goodnight Gorilla by Peggy Rathman. This cleverly illustrated book depicts a sleepy zookeeper putting the animals to bed while a sweet little gorilla steals the keys and ends up co-sleeping with the zookeeper and his wife. Gee, I wonder why baby likes this it?

2. Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? illustrated by Eric Carle. Loves the page depicting a roomful of children looking at HER. Carle has also done a cute series for Shabbat and the chagim.

3. “Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?” Dr. Seuss. Who doesn’t like to make silly sounds?

4. The Bedtime Sh’ma. A Goodnight Book adapted by Sarah Gershman and illustrated by Kristina Swarner. CD companion must have. (NOT a board book).

5. Hug by Jez Alborough. A three-word book, with eloquent illustrations. A little gorilla wanders among hugging animal families, at first delighted at all the love, then sad because he can’t find anyone to hug him, then happy again when he finds his mommy. She laughs and bounces when we get to the reunion scene.

6. Gorilita by Ruth Lercher Bornstein, about a little gorilla whom everyone loves even after he turns 1 and isn’t so little anymore.

There are a lot of ape books in this list. What can I say? Baby’s got this thing for them. We were at the zoo again this week and the orangutan lept up to the Plexiglas, pressed her face against it, spread out her arms, and gave baby a hug and kiss. Baby hugged back. That was Lucy, who is now on birth control. I guess she wasn’t ready to stop having babies.

Some “children’s” books are really for me. I’ve got a warped sense of humor. Maybe it’s just letting off steam. I discovered Edward Gorey’s, The Doubtful Guest in my eighth month of pregnancy, when I felt as if my body had been invaded by a hiccupping alien who was using my liver as a trampoline. This book exaggerates the feeling until it's outrageous and silly.

How Little Lori Visited Times Square by Amos Vogel and Maurice Sendak (reissued). I think it’s funny. Babydaddy and I get into major fights about Maurice Sendak. He feels Sendak is simply too frightening. But I don’t want my child to be the Jewish equivalent of Tod and Rod Flanders.

In a Sendak book there is mortal danger, sometimes imaginary, sometimes the result of the child’s misbehavior (“Where the Wild Things Are,”). Always, as in Brundibar (adapted by Kushner from an opera performed in Theresienstadt), the smart, courageous children rise to the occasion. I used to be terrified by "The Cat in the Hat," when I was small (what if the mother came home before the house was cleaned up?). But Sendak always made me feel I had agency and that the complex world was more beautiful than I ever imagined, because it was fragile.

My parents used to tell my fretful sister if she didn’t wear her sleep sack at night in winter she’d turn into an ice cube and Mama would drink her up, and then she’d no longer exist. Now THAT is frightening.

It’s not like I plan to read her Struwwelpeteror anything.

I was certain baby would LOVE “Olivia” by Ian Falconer, but now I realize that the stories about this strong-willed, energetic little girl piglet are simply written from the point of view of a tired, affectionate parent.


Joyous Jewess said...

Our babies have similar taste in books -- "Mr Brown" and "Brown Bear" are among the favorites in our house, too. Other favorites are "More More More Said the Baby," "Harry the Dirty Dog," "Mama Do You Love Me?" and "Everywhere Babies" (babies are fascinating to other babies, it seems). I haven't seen "Gorilita" but I am going to look for it because my little ones also feel a kindred spirit with apes -- a new book that they have been reading a lot lately is "Hand Hand Fingers Thumb" which has monkeys AND drumming -- a winning combination!

lsw said...

What great recommendations! Thanks, Ladies!

Anonymous said...

Any Sandra Boynton book is also a winner.

Maya said...

I just remembered, there's an exhibition called "Israillustrators 2007: Illustrations from Israeli Children's Books" free at the DCJCC through Dec. 21. I've not seen it yet, but will try to this week. If anyone else has seen it, could you drop a comment to let me know how it was?

therapydoc said...

They don't forget that you read to them, you know, and they don't forget the books.

Gluckel of Manhattan said...

The books my mother read to me as a kid have had an indelible mark on my choices for my 3yo son. We're reading popular hits from the 1940-70 range:

Caps for Sale
Stone Soup
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble
A Story, A Story
The Happy House
and anything Leo Leoni