In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Living happily in our cloud of words (and pictures)

Dear Aunt Debbie,

It's funny -- when we started reading chapter books with Eleanor, I had the brief worried thought: Does this mean we're leaving behind our wonderful stash of picture books?  But of course it doesn't.  Even if we didn't have Isabel coming up through the ranks, thrusting her dog-themed board books at me and insisting, "Woof!", Eleanor moves easily among different kinds of books.  Like all readers, sometimes she's in the mood for one thing, and sometimes another.  Me too. 

I can see how, especially in a recession, parents might balk at buying a lot of brand-new hardcover picture books, at close to $20 a pop -- I do.  As I've mentioned several times, we often make the library our testing ground, and then buy the books we've checked out repeatedly.  But have you noticed, as a bookseller, anything like the "trend" the Times is reporting on?

One of the library books Eleanor has fallen in love with this week is a wordless book you wrote about back in May: Flotsam, by David Wiesner.  It's such a gorgeous book, and so rich -- Jeff and I have found ourselves poring over it as well.  Eleanor has been reading it a lot, both talking it through with us and just staring into the pages as she drinks her milk in the morning.  In Flotsam, a curious boy already examining crabs on the beach finds an old underwater camera, develops the film in it, and sees extraordinary underwater scenes: mechanical fish, a family of octopi reclining on living room furniture, giant starfish stretching with islands on their backs, and finally an explanation of the camera's provenance. 

I wonder what Eleanor makes of some of it.  I look at these pictures and tease out what is real and what's fantastical.  But here's Eleanor, for whom magnifying glasses, microscopes, and old-fashioned film developing are just as strange and wonderful as the magical bits are to me.  I think this is one I'll shell out the bucks for, maybe for Christmas.  I'd like to have it around so the girls can easily re-read it as they get older.
Your also post reminds me that I need to write at some point about more of the classics: Maurice Sendak, Robert McCloskey.  I'll get on that soon.

Love, Annie

1 comment:

  1. I read this article in the Times and thought of you Instantly, wondered about your opinion. So happy to read your aunt's post and yours. Altho I have no children of my own, caring for some on occasion and Always enjoying reading to or getting read to (however improvised it may be), I could talk about the value of picture books all day! I have even kept some picture books that I loved as a child, a teen, even an adult. Picture books feed the imagination - one of the most important "skills/abilities" we humans have - and every time you "read" a picture book the story can be different. In an era of tight school budgets, when the "value" of arts education gets debated Again (sigh), I wonder at the Genius of Jim Henson (where did that come from? who/what fostered That?) and all the writers, artists, creators who encouraged us to dream our own stories. Yay, picture books!