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, July 4, 2013

Please and thank you

Dear Aunt Debbie,

What a lovely visit we had with you in Washington, DC! The trip to Child's Play was among the highlights.  We hadn't been there since before the renovation, and it's so cheering to be among such well-stocked shelves!  After being briefly distracted by the racks of dress-up in  the toy section of the store, Eleanor and Isabel settled down to looking at books.  We said we'd buy each girl one of her choosing: Isabel picked Owl Babies, and Eleanor a new Nancy Drew.

Then I spotted Thank You, Mama, by Kate Banks, which I was curious to read after your post on it a couple of months ago, and found its companion book, Please, Papa.  I quickly read through both, fell completely in love with them, and passed the two books over to Jeff to read to the girls while I nursed Will.

In Please, Papa, the animal-loving Alice is making a farm in her bedroom.  She asks her mother for a variety of animals, and her mother responds with a refrain familiar to all parents:

"Mama, give me the pig," she said.
"Say please," said Alice's mother.
"Please, Mama," said Alice,
and her mother gave her the pig.

In Gabi Swiatkowska's fabulous illustrations, the animals that Alice's mother passes over aren't toys, but real farm animals -- Alice lugs the huge pig across the page.  The requests continue, and Alice gets slightly more polite, until Alice asks for a horse and her mother doesn't have one.  When her father comes home from work, Alice asks him for a horse, and when she says please, he becomes the horse, lifting her up onto his shoulders:

"Make the horse trot," said Alice.  "Please, Papa."
Alice's father skipped around the room.
"Make the horse neigh," said Alice.  "Please, Papa."
Alice's father bobbed his head and neighed like a horse.
"Make the horse gallop," said Alice.  "Please, Papa."
Alice's father raced around the room with Alice on his shoulders.

"Make the horse jump," said Alice.  "Please."
"No," said her father.

"Please, Papa," said Alice.
Her father shook his head.
"No," he said again.  "This horse is tired."
Alice frowned.

This is the moment that made me love this book unquestioningly: the father's total willingness to play, and then his need to stop playing before she's tired of the game, ring true.  Alice pouts, and then her father asks her ("please, Alice") to give him a rest, and she gets over her pout, and she does.  It's pretty much what happens at our house every time Jeff comes home from work.

So thank you, most wonderful Aunt Debbie, for hosting us and giving us gifts (including these two excellent books), and for continuing to support such good reading in our home.  And please, can we come visit again sometime soon?

Love, Annie

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