Tuesday, November 06, 2007

He's No Book Expert, but He Knows What He Hates

So a couple of days ago, in the comments section of a post, landismom asked:
And where are the Sam Halloween pics, btw?
Good question. Funny story about that, which I think will serve as a set-up for this post. So as to conserve my precious storytelling energy, I may as well copy and paste from the email I sent Doppelsis on this very subject:
In the days leading up to Halloween, Sam seemed really psyched about the whole thing. He was excited about his costume [a train engineer, complete with pocketwatch, walkie-talkie, and awesome hat], and he'd perfectly memorized the whole trick-or-treat drill. He woke up on Halloween morning raring to go. Or so he had us believe.

He didn't get further than half a block from the house before Rusty had to bring him back, wailing his guts out. I think part of the problem was that, in all our discussions, we'd talked about having him carry one particular flashlight. At the last minute, Rusty thought (correctly, but since when does a toddler care about what's right?) that a smaller flashlight would be a better idea. He attempted to make the switch, and the change in game plan made Sam blow a minor gasket, which signalled the beginning of the end.

We somehow coerced him into his costume, but by the time he and Rusty left the house, we were starting to get trick-or-treaters. I suspect Sam thought I was throwing some kind of big candy-related hootenanny without him, and he was confused and angry that I was kicking him out of the house. Which is totally understandable when you think about it.

I am, of course, guessing at 50% 75% 100% of Sam's motivations. Who can claim to know the mind of a two-and-a-half year old?
And so goes the complex inner life of today's modern toddler. So you can imagine what it's like trying to pick out books for one. ("Aha!" you say to yourself. "There's the segue!" It's true. You've picked up on my subtle writerly devices.)

Here is a partial list of books I've picked up recently, on my own, for Sam, all of which were dismal failures:

Madeline in London
We love
Madeline. We love Madeline's Rescue. I don't know what Sam has against London, especially since he recently informed me that he wants to be a Beefeater when he grows up, but there you go.

There's a Wocket in My Pocket

This is the first Dr. Seuss book to freak Sam out. I think it might have been the Vug under the rug that did it.

Tikki Tikki Tembo

I can't even speculate as to why Sam doesn't like this book. We've read it only once, and ever since then, if I suggest it, he yells "NO!" and makes sure to file it away on a bottom shelf.

Keats's Neighborhood

Sam likes a bunch of Ezra Jack Keats's stories, as I've mentioned in the past, but this treasury of ten classics by Keats did not go over well when I brought it home from the library. I know this because Sam tried to open the front door to put the book outside.

Lost and Found

Rusty and I both love this charming story about a boy and his pet penguin, which makes it really hard to fight the urge to tie Sam down and force him to listen to it when we want to read it. It's not unlike that feeling you get when you're trying to convince an otherwise quite intelligent friend to try a book you love, and you can tell they're not buying what you're selling. And then you punch them.

But sometimes I have my small victories, and these I cherish. To wit:

In Italian, "pezzettino" means "little piece." This story is about a little square (literally, the character is a red square) who goes around trying to find out if he's a piece of something bigger. Holy friggin' cow, does Sam ever love this book. The first time we read it, it was like he'd found religion.

The Mr. Men and Little Miss series

I think what Sam likes about these books is that they're so small he can carry a bunch of them at once. And he really likes the back of each book, where every character in the series is pictured and named, and he insists on having each one identified. Every bloody one. Every single time we read one of the books. And even when we don't.

Katy and the Big Snow
and Maybelle the Cable Car
Duh... books about anthropomorphized heavy equipment. Even I know these are a no-brainer for your average mechanically obsessed toddler.

So now, given what I've told you about Sam's literary preferences these days, any suggestions? The holidays are coming up, and I have shopping to do.


Unknown said...

I didn't like Tikki Tikki as a child because of two reasons. One, I first encountered the story in... first grade or kindergarden, I forget which, in those glorified viewmaster things. We all were taking turns at different stations, and I was excited about that one because I had it mixed up with Rikki Tikki Tavi. So I was very disappointed when I got my turn and it was not about a mongoose.

Also, despite the fact that it is totally not what the story is about, I was angry and annoyed at the understory, in which the older child (which I was) is overappreciated and made of Fail, and the younger child (unappreciated) is totally awesome. So it may be that this is not a good book to introduce to Sam at the same time as a sibling. "Look honey, a book about how actually, older children are loved way too much, and younger children are pitiful and secretly way more awesome."

Again, I totally realize NOW that this is not remotely what the story is about, and in fact it is more of a "it was wrong of the parents to love the older child more" thing. But at the age of five or six I was all NO OLDER CHILDREN ARE AWESOME.

Anonymous said...

Henry and Amy - Right way round and Upside Down by Stephen King (not the horror guy - an Aussie. Very popular with my 3 yr old.

Never That Easy said...

Ah, the Mr. & Miss. books - also a big hit around here. Lil Girl is currently into Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney (and now there's a sequel!), and One Naked Baby by Maggie Smith, both of which I can recommend highly.

landismom said...

We're reading a lot of Olivia around here lately. The Potato loves the new Olivia book (which is about Christmas--how timely). Also, my MIL just sent us a book called Wendel's Workshop (from London, not sure if it's published on this side of the pond) that is receiving rave reviews from the four-year-old set. Robots, donchaknow.

And I LOVE the image of Sam screaming, "NO!" when you pull out Tikki Tikki Tembo.

Anonymous said...

I think that Sam trying to put the book out on the doorstep to get it out of the house was too funny! I can just picture it.

Erin from Boston

BabelBabe said...

We totally dig Kiss Goodnight, Sam around here.

Also, the classic Peter Rabbit (the one where they actually say Peter's father wound up in a pie) is in high rotation right now.

me said...

Spotty Chop is also 2.5 and he is really digging -
Where's My Teddy? - Jez Alborough
Moon Plane - Peter McCarty
Grandfather Twilight - Barbara Helen Berger
Napping House by Audry Wood
Chicken Soup With Rice - Maurice Sendak
In the Night Kitchen - Maurice Sendak
or the Carl series - Alexandra Day, his favorite is Good Dog Carl

Thanks for hooking me up with Pezzettino and the anthropomorphized heavy equipment; can you ever have enough of that?

Anonymous said...

Dear Doppelganger:

Long-time reader, first time leaving a comment -- I mean ever; I've never had occasion (or nerve) to comment on even my favourite blogs, such as yours. But I came across the Fall Children's Books Issue in the NY Times this morning, and immediately thought of you. There's a link on the front page of the Times online if you're interested.

Best wishes, and congratulations to you and Rusty on the newest addition to the family!