Cavanaugh and I went to the library yesterday and it was so disappointing. When he was younger and all we read were board books, our library selection was very limited. The board books don’t have that long a shelf life considering the audience normally handling them, I think. Now that we are looking on the children’s shelves for stories, finding a good book is much more challenging. Part of it is that once you’re in hardbacks, the books might be appropriate for a two year old or a nine year old, with a ton of text on the page or barely. It’s harder than just looking through the board book bin, but shouldn’t be so much of a problem really, except that a lot of the books are horrible.
As a writer, I’ve always heard how challenging it is to get a children’s book published, how competitive the market is. If that’s true, then why are so many of the books full of jarring illustrations, boring stories, and rhyming lines that don’t read well aloud because the cadence is so choppy? I’m going to have to start printing out lists of award winning books to take with us to the library so we can go searching for something specific rather than browsing in the hopes we’ll find something we like. It makes me sad. But we spent an hour at the library yesterday, reading book after book, and Cavanaugh only wanted to bring one of them home. And I agreed with him. All the rest of them needed to stay there!
Luckily, we got a package in the mail yesterday, from our buddies Rachel and Jake. Their daughter Clementine was born on Cavanaugh’s birthday a year after Cavanaugh. The package was the first dowry installment. (Yes, all the parents are poets and we like to have a good time. We won’t actually make them get married–unless they really want to). In the package, along with puppets from Where the Wild Things Are was one of the greatest books we’ve read in a long time.
Not a Box by Antoinette Portis
Not a Box is a catalyst for the imagination. There is almost no story outside of one person (presumably an adult) asking variations of, “What are you doing with that box?” and the bunny answering “It’s not a box.” The illustrations show all of the incarnations of the box. My two year old sat in a box and asked me to read the book over and over. Then he began telling me what the not a box actually was: a car, mountain, rocket ship. Then he started telling me what his “not a box” was and where he was going on his trip. If only all children’s books could offer as much room for children to enter a world of pretend. This is a great book! And it is a Geisel Honor Book, so that’s one of the lists will be taking with us on our next trip to the library.
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