fear not: i’m in a happy reading state of mind now.
why, you ask? for starters, i’m currently gripped by an apoplectic fear that some toy i might purchase for a birthday or a holiday will end up getting sent back on a slow boat to china. worse still, it might poison a kid. so pick a book. even if it’s a baby book and the kid does chew on it, it hopefully won’t be laden with lead.
there are some who think that some of the books i’d choose poison a kid. i mean, some of these authors, like my fave judy blume, end up on banned books lists year after year. they deal with topics like sex, or drugs, or rock and roll. or maybe a combo of all three. and some parents are so damned threatened by this idea.
now i am not a model parent. BC will be quick to tell you that i curse; i’m a major boohoo; i’m unfair from time to time; and i don’t let her live on reese’s peanut butter cups. but i like to delude myself believe that i have a pretty good relationship with my kids. we talk about lots of things. hell, they bring up stuff waaaay before i’m ready. and i try to answer them as honestly as i can — although believe me, sometimes, the answer is pretty short since they can’t handle the whole truth at times.
and when we read books together, we talk about them. if the characters are freaked out because they don’t fill up a bra yet, that’s fodder. if the characters are frightened by witches, we go there, too. i suspect a day will come when the kids will be smarter than i am, and they’ll start asking questions about nuclear particles and neurotransmitters. i’ll be the one, then, who gets to ask the questions.
but in the meantime, i get to be the smarty. i’m the mommy; that’s why.
so for a week, i’m going to share some of my favorite tween girl books, books that BC and i have enjoyed, sometimes multiple times. i’ll then magically pick a book or two that bridges the gap and that can be enjoyed by a tween girl AND a preschool boy (for those nights when i’m solo parenting and have to kill two birds with one stone. so to speak.) and then, onto preschool goodness. i’ll try to pick some faves as well as some slightly off-beat works.
but know that these are all kid-tested and mom-approved… of course, if you’re the type of mom who has perfect hair, has perfect kids, and is perfectly uncomfortable with anything remotely controversial, then these may not be perfect for you. if, however, you’ve an open mind, well, then. pull up a chair 🙂
read on, macduff.
kids books i loathe week is completed with a classic that everybody seems to love. everyone except for me, that is. in fact, i would have to say this is the book that sends me over the biggest cliff. i would never, ever advocate banning it. but jeez oh man, i hate this book with a passion.
i know, i know. the giving tree is a tender story that talks about loyalty and devotion. silverstein keeps it open-ended so that you and your child can have a conversation about being good to one another. selflessness. that sort of thing.
but you know what? i think a little too much selflessness is foisted onto parents, particularly mothers. and we are often the readers of this book, and we’re the ones who get the message thus strewn upon ourselves. i know plenty of mothers — myself included — who would put limb and life and liberty at risk simply to ensure the happiness and well-being of their child. now, this is good. and this is not so good.
you know. put the air mask on yourselves, people, before you put it on the children.
i have seen and been the woman who whittles herself down to the point where there is nearly nothing left for my partner, my kids, my world. what good are you to everyone if you’re a shell of your former self?
and that’s why i get so effing mad at this book. it sanctifies the effing tree. what an amazing, giving tree. it gives and gives until it can barely give anymore. and of course, no one appreciates it until its too late.
appreciate me now, while i am here to hear it. enjoy me now, while i can still join you in your laughter. don’t wait til i’m dead. don’t make me a martyr.
and pick a different book out for me to read to my kids for that matter.
The Giving Tree
ok, ok. i know i am about to go after a man who is not only still dead but is also still very beloved by a huge segment of the american population. we love the sweater, we love the parodies, we love the gentle ways of fred rogers.
i do, too, generally speaking (though i always hated the puppets and never understood how they fit into the “real” world of mr. rogers. ever.) and that’s why i felt like such a bad person for loathing this book.
but when i was expecting jools, i read several “new baby” books to BC to help her prepare for for her new baby brother. this is the only one that truly freaked her out in a way i could have never expected. see, fred talks honestly in the book about the feelings a new baby can bring out in a sibling. and one of those feelings is that you might feel like you want to hurt the baby.
BC was freaked out FOR MONTHS. mama, she wailed, i don’t want to hit the baby! i’m afraid i will hit the baby!!!!
when you’re pregnant, you really don’t need that on top of everything else. i’m more in favor of talking about feelings during the actual moment. sure, talk about what it’s like to be a new sibling. but don’t put ideas into my kid’s head that weren’t there to start, fred. you just created one hell of a nervous child. a real freaking help that book was. nope. there are a bajillion new baby books out there, everything from the berenstain bears to the sears’.
when it comes to new babies, stay the hell out of mr. roger’s neighborhood.
Mr. Roger’s New Baby
a caveat here: BS found canadian author robert munsch’s website and downloaded a bazillion stories from it for a recent car trip. some of them are downright hilarious. the kids continue to quote from one in particular, especially since it contains the name of one of their beloved cousins: mac-ken-zie….do…YOU…have to go PEE? (this is what passes for art around here somedays.)
that being said, it’s a good thing i didn’t realize that they were written by the same guy who wrote love you forever or else i possibly would have nixed the project from the start. (shows you how exceptionally open-minded i am sometimes, huh.) but this book, in my book, is a major stinker. we’re talking skunker-times-1000.
i remember reading a review of this once from a self-righteous man who reckoned that if you didn’t like this book, you must never have experienced a selfless mother’s love. (sort of like those people who say that if you criticize our foreign policy, you must not be a patriot.) balderdash to that. my momma loves me, she loves me. and still, i can’t stand this one. for starters, i can’t get through this thing without crying buckets of tears, much to BC’s amusement.
if my tears were all that stood between me and this book, then i would be ok with that. but there is something about this book that is just so exceptionally creepy once you’re past the whole baby-child phase. i know all about allegory; but still, the idea of the elderly mom creeping up into the grown man’s house just made me think of one too many thriller movies. attack of the senior? throw momma from the window? my mother the breaking and entering chick? i dunno. it’s all just too freaky for me.
and then, the cycle continues with a new baby.
::cue twilight zone music::
Love You Forever
i may surprise a few people with this next pick, a beloved 50+ year old chestnut. and i will say that i love the illustrations for this one. but i find our friend eloise incredibly irksome.
see, where zillions of people see spunky girl, i see spoiled brat. where zillions of people see cheeky young lady pulling pranks, i see girl who really is lacking proper supervision and guidance. where people see convenient plot device in absentee parents, i see little lady who lacks consideration for anyone else’s needs but her own — and a solid reason to call the division of youth and family services. pronto.
i really do not see anything uplifting about eloise. truly. i wish i did. like i said, i adore the illustrations, an ancestor to one of my favorite children’s books, olivia. i love a subversive heroine as much as the next girl — some of my faves include the aforementioned pig, clarice bean, junie b. jones, and beverly cleary’s ramona — some of whom i’ll discuss in my part of the month on books i love for kids. but i don’t see eloise as subversive. i see her as a sad little brat, what i imagine paris hilton would have been like if she had been abandoned in the plaza hotel with nothing but a know-nothing nanny. and i simply cannot enjoy her tales because of it.
BS hated this book so much that he banned it from the house. i’ve softened that a bit, as i don’t believe in banning books. EVER. so i told BC she is welcome to get the eloise books out of the library. but she must read them herself. i can’t wait to see her try.
anyone who has kids knows that they all hit phases where they’re fascinated with their bodies. no, not the way high society women are fascinated (and repelled) and decide to undergo the knife; i mean fascinated by farts, snot, poop, bellybuttons, and anything else that might smell or be gross.
to that end, some clever japanese authors created the my body science series. some of the books, like Everybody Poops, translate ok and are funny to little kids (although frankly, they’re dull for grownups.) some of them, though, like The Holes in Your Nose, are simply gross and awful. i like talking about body fluids like the next person ( i threatened as much in my initial post on NaBloPoMo weeks ago), but reading through this book is about as much fun as eating your own boogers. which someone i know does. which is why i got this book in the first place. (i won’t name names, but he’s the youngest person in this house.)
i mean, who the hell cares if you can’t smell your own farts when your nose is stuffed (as this book shares, along with booger-eating gorillas and plenty of bloody noses)???
nope. even i, a grossologist (read: mom) can hardly stand this one.
in short, it blows.
The Holes in Your Nose
so i’ve got myself a leitmotif, if you will, for the rest of the month. i’m thinking about children’s books, specifically ones i loathe (very few) and ones i love (too many to fit in one month.) i don’t think i can make a week of children’s books i loathe (although i am most interested in those that others loathe, so feel free to share in the comments section if you’re feeling cranky but don’t want to go to therapy this week.) but even i have a few that i really, truly cannot stand. and you might be surprised when you find out which ones they are — some are classics in children’s literature. yes, i will probably lose a friend or two over this, but some things just have to be said 😉
nevertheless, as much as i cannot stand these books, i would never, ever advocate book banning. i want to say that as loud and clear as humanly possible.
i feel better now that i’ve gotten that part off my chest.
because i don’t want to be a beacon of negativity (Read: i already won class pessimist back in high school; i don’t want to win another such award in my life if i can help it), i am also including books that are great for tween girls and then books that are great for preschool boys. and, in the spirit of crazeeeeeeness, i even have a few that — hold on to your hat, mavis — are good for BOTH! you know, for those times when your partner is out on the town sitting somewhere with an umbrella in his/her drink sleeping with his/her co-worker working late or just plain not around and you need to read to two sleepy, teary kids. these are books that do the trick.
i mean, i had so much fun with this sort of thing and also this sort of thing, why not try it again?
here goes nuttin’::spittin’ into her hands::
i’ve started looking at a site called librarything. for anyone who grooves on books, this is a wonderland of cataloging books you’ve read or own. i’m having a lot of fun picking books i’ve read and making a list (as if i have any time to do any of this, of course. what did i do before the internet, i wonder? sleep? watch TV? interact with actual people?)
but i just came upon the giving tree by shel silverstein. and i can stay quiet no longer. someone bake me a cake with a file in it, for i know the library police will surely be by to take me away to library hell (where everyone is stuck reading proust or nietzsche.)
everyone gushes about this amazing book as if it’s the best thing since sliced bread. but on behalf of all the mothers in the world, i would like to point out that there is nothing good about teaching children that they should expect their loved ones to throw themselves into the fires of martyrdom, all to satisfy their own underdeveloped desires. i do a hell of a lot more good in my children’s lives as a person who remains alive; and occasionally, their requests threaten to knock that balance off-kilter. to keep myself alive, there are times when i simply have to say one terrible, horrible, no good word (with apologies to ms. viorst, who i love): “NO!”
if there is anyone out there who can actually convince me that this book actually has merit, i’m all ears… anyone who hasn’t died from cutting off her arms to satisfy her child, that is.
before i ever had any children, i bought the book At The Zoo, with lyrics from the famous simon and garfunkel song which i adore. i knew that one day, there would be a little person who would enjoy it right along side me.
and now, most nights, she asks for that book. of course, now, she knows the lyrics by heart. there is something extremely funny (and disturbing) about a 4-year-old who sings:
“zebras are reactionaries/antelopes are missionaries/pigeons plot in secrecy/and hamsters turn on frequently.”
fortunately, when she sings “the zookeeper is very fond of rum,” she thinks that rum is the name of the beaver on the page.
At The Zoo
Simon & Garfunkel
Someone told me
It’s all happening at the zoo.
I do believe it,
I do believe it’s true.
It’s a light and tumble journey
From the East Side to the park;
Just a fine and fancy ramble
To the zoo.
But you can take the crosstown bus
If it’s raining or it’s cold,
And the animals will love it
If you do.
Somethin’ tells me
It’s all happening at the zoo.
I do believe it,
I do believe it’s true.
The monkeys stand for honesty,
Giraffes are insincere,
And the elephants are kindly but
Orangutans are skeptical
Of changes in their cages,
And the zookeeper is very fond of rum.
Zebras are reactionaries,
Antelopes are missionaries,
Pigeons plot in secrecy,
And hamsters turn on frequently.
What a gas! You gotta come and see
At the zoo.
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