Saturday, November 3, 2007

Return of the Mom

It's been a little over three months since I last posted on here. My son Ari was born in mid-July and consequently the blog has (understandably, I think) been relegated to the back-back burner.

I visited my parents in Washington, DC last week and saw my old friend Susan (author of Wizards Wireless) the other day and that, along with my son's improving sleep schedule, has inspired me to return. Susan is now (in addition to being a graduate student in library science) a children's book buyer for a local toy store, and her enthusiasm for children's literature is infectious. (Quick plug for her store, Child's Play, with branches in Rockville, MD and Chevy Chase, DC---we popped into the Chevy Chase branch, which looks like a tiny storefront but goes on and on...I got sidetracked by the excellent selection of infant toys at the front but eventually made it to the back, where they keep their amazing selection of books.)

My reading time has been sharply reduced as of late and now consists almost solely of the two books that I alternate for Ari's bedtime: Goodnight Moon and The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Although Ari is much too young to actually understand what I read, I like to think that he enjoys the repetition. His eye-hand coordination has improved to the point where he can grab at the sturdy board book pages of Caterpillar (my sister Liz wisely bought us the original hardcover copy of Goodnight Moon; the board book cuts down the pages dramatically and a lot of key details are lost.)

Reading (and re-reading) these two classics, which were also two of my childhood favorites, sheds new light on what makes a successful children's book. Children love repetition, but we adults crave variety. I think that what makes these two books fresh night after night are the amazing details that the illustrations provide, from the delectable treats of the caterpillar's Saturday feast (not surprisingly, my favorite page as a child) to the collection of items that are wished a goodnight by the blue pajama-clad bunny. Although I can now recite Goodnight Moon verbatim, the drawings are what make the book interesting for me. I recently read a Time Out New York Kids article that asked various authors why they loved the book. Julia Glass wrote that both of her sons loved to search for the roving mouse on each page. I couldn't remember if I conducted a similar search as a child, but now as an adult, I took a look, and sure enough, the little mouse is there on every page in a new spot. The painting on the wall of two bunnies is from the other Brown/Hurd collaboration, The Runaway Bunny. And just last night, I noticed for the first time that a little green copy of Goodnight Moon is on the bunny's bedside table. Very post-modern.

I'm eager to hear what other books you have read over and over again and still find as intriguing as the first time you opened the cover.