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.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pointing out the obvious

Dear Annie,

I'm in the middle of ordering books that will arrive in the store this fall, and as usual feel deluged with a lot of average stuff, with the occasional really wonderful book poking its head above the waves.  I'm noticing a mini-trend: the anti-digital gadgets picture book.  A child is surrounded by shades of gray and boredom, moving from one digital object to another. "Loading... Loading.... Loading," says one. "Game Over," says another.  Finally she leaves the house and discovers color -- first in a flower, then in fields, and in wonderful adventures galloping across the countryside.  In another book, a girl rejects a friend's gadgets in favor of lying outside watching pictures in the clouds.  And yet another shows a child having increasingly outlandish adventures while trying to attract a phone-centric parent's attention.

Some of these books have wonderful art and funny scenes, but I find it hard to imagine anyone other than an irritated grandparent buying them.  They're a better illustrated version of preachy behavior books, making their points with thinly concealed lectures, rather than with good stories.  Many wonderful books about using your imagination exist -- it's not necessary to say, use your imagination this way before introducing them. 

I re-offer three, all listed under "imaginative play" on our picture books list:
The Queen of France
Even Firefighters Hug Their Moms

Somehow this feels parallel to books about books.  Picture books which sing the praises of reading -- with dancing animals, endearing siblings, or engaged students -- also tend to strike me as one step removed from the heart of reading.  It's easier to internalize that books offer huge ranges of emotion and experience simply by reading them, rather than reading books which tell you that's what they do.

Those are the thoughts rattling in my sample book-addled brain. 



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