Dear Santa Blogs:
I am at my wit’s end about what to buy my daughter in the way of books this holiday. For years, I have found the cutest books I could think of—ducks and bunnies and such—and when I thought she was ready for it, I started introducing her to Paddington, Ping, and Pooh. I was holding off with Nancy Drew, not quite sure when she would be ready for the faster paced material.
But she turns up her nose at Peter Rabbit, and makes rude jokes about Pat the Bunny. She talks about vampires and ghouls and zombies, which give ME nightmares, so I wouldn’t dare read them to her at bedtime. So far we get by because I blame all my mistakes on you, Santa Blogs. What else can I do?
First of all, “Confused Parent” is a redundancy, like “cold snow” or “shifty politician”.
I am not unfamiliar with the phenomenon you describe. I myself have spoken with a five year-old who admitted he does not much care for Dr. Seuss, of whom his mother, of course, is a big fan. It extends to more than books. Children instinctively choose their favorites from things their parents don’t understand. One of the greatest collectors of Kewpies I know started in on her quest because her mother, a woman pained by vulgarity in art, refused to let her have such things in the house. The atheist who for many years priced our religion section at the Book Fair has a daughter who collects statuettes of the BVM and the Infant Child of Prague. I suspect if we went far enough into our history, we would find an account of young Cain pushing back from the table and telling his mother, “You KNOW I hate apples!”
The only remedy for this that I know is more books. A speaker at the Newberry once claimed that the time parents spend looking for that One Perfect Book for their toddler who is three but who reads at a seven year-old level is time wasted. If you want the child to love books, pile them on. There’s such a variety out there, that you must eventually hit on some that your child will love but will neither curdle your blood nor churn your stomach. There may be a way for you to steer between the bunnies and the bats and find something you can enjoy together.
Yes, books for children are expensive, and this alternative can be pricey. But I’m pretty sure you put down a couple hundred for that LiteBrite Laptop for her. And, ahem, in any case, there’s a way around that if you just introduce the little dragon dumpling to the joys of used books. There’s no Book Fair going on right now, but they have let me put up an assortment in the A.C. (Aggravating Children) McClurg Bookstore. Maybe you could compromise on Stellaluna, who is at least a cute bat. Or maybe you could read through A House at Pooh Corner while your murderous moppet peruses one of Edward Gorey’s tales of small children meeting untimely ends for not listening to their parents.
It may take a large number of purchases before you reach a bipartisan agreement. But you will rest easier, knowing you have done your best to make one person happy. (That poor old Book Fair manager, of course: come back and buy more mistakes next week.)