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, May 10, 2012

Gentle beginnings

Dear Annie,

Your lovely description of Where the Wild Things Are became fitting final praise for Maurice Sendak.  It's been a sad week in the world of kids' books.  This afternoon in the store, two different adults stopped at my display of Sendak books, picked up Where the Wild Things Are, and read it straight through.  Each had a sad little smile, put the book back, and went on with whatever their errand was.  Sendak's death has put many back in touch with the magic of books for children.

Back on Sunday, I promised to write about four gentle and lovely baby books by the inspired Helen Oxenbury.

Tickle Tickle
Clap Hands
All Fall Down
Say Goodnight
are all eight-page board books designed to entrance little babies. Sweet big-headed babies of many colors toddle unsteadily through the delights of their days. The words to all of them are still embedded in my brain, although Clap Hands is always the one I come back to:

Clap hands, dance and spin, [picture: boogying toddlers]
open wide and pop it in, [babies eating, drinking and spilling]
blow a trumpet, bang a drum, [wooden spoons, pans and paper rolls]
wave to daddy, wave to mum. [waving at the reader]

That's the entire text, and the pictures give plenty to identify with.

Playing by the Book, an inspired mom's website which we've admired before, took the first line of Tickle Tickle as inspiration for a meditation on mud:

Squelch squelch in the mud ...

The babes in this one have grown-ups attached: a hand anchoring a muddy baby, a dad's back while he holds a wet bather, a mom brushing her child's silky hair while a bald baby looks on quizzically.

No major emotional conflict to be savored in these little books (give these toddlers two or three years to become Sendak readers), but lots of cozy.



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