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.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

On shopping

Dear Annie,

No -- a very satisfying word.  Very useful for younger siblings, who have a lot of other people's agendas to resist.  It was Mona's first word.  I'm glad your younger daughter is enjoying it too.

Another busy day at the store today.  Somehow, in the middle of many adults looking for items on their lists, or intently trying to figure out if a box of markers and crayons is a better gift for their five year-old than a huge jar of collage materials, little beacons of happiness emerge.  Despite the crowds, two four year-olds managed to arrange about fifty small plastic figurines -- fairies, soldiers, polar bears, dinosaurs -- into two very neat rows meandering past several shelves.  It's good to have a very concrete reminder of play in the middle of shopping nuttiness.

A lovely book by Harriet Ziefert  also gives a little perspective on the shopping season. 
A New Coat for Anna
, illustrated by Anita Lobel, tells the story of a girl and her mother in post-World War II England. 
Winter had come and Anna needed a new coat.  The fuzzy blue coat that she had worn for so many winters was no longer fuzzy and it was very small.
My scanner is not functioning these days, or I would add the lovely drawings of Anna in her short blue coat.  Her mother has very little money, but she has beloved old objects: grandfather's gold watch, a lamp, a necklace and a teapot.  And she has an idea.  Anna and her mother offer the watch to a farmer, in exchange for enough wool from his sheep to make a coat.  The farmer agrees, but says they'll have to wait for shearing time in the spring.
Anna waited for spring to come.  Almost every Sunday she and her mother visited the sheep.  She would always ask them, "Is your wool growing?"  The sheep would answer, "Baaa!"  Then she would feed them nice fresh hay and give them hugs.
At Christmastime Anna brought them paper necklaces and apples and sang carols.
There's a page of pictures of Anna surrounded by sheep who are wearing paper chains around their necks.  The sheep are eventually shorn, the farmer teaches Anna how to card the wool, and Anna's mother barters the lamp to a spinner to spin the wool.  Anna and her mother pick lingonberries in the summer to dye the wool a lovely bright red, then give a weaver the necklace to convert the wool into a bolt of cloth.  The tailor gets the teapot and Anna gets a lovely big red wool coat.  At the end, the four people who helped it to happen come to a modest Christmas party at Anna's house.

Acquisition in this book is so personal -- I'm quite fond of it.

Happy holidays to you.



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