Thursday, January 19, 2006

Inter-blog Commentary : Cautionary Tales

Can you tell me when is a comment is no longer a comment? When can a comment get to be too much? I figure I run at a rate of around 50% borderline pushing the polite norms for comment length. As a means of overcoming this errant verbosity in the comment boxes of my admired blogs we here at mo-wo want to introduce the inter-blog commentary!

This means by we can get past the urge to rant and instead really, really, blather on about what we have read in the onternet in the relative privacy of our own blog, away from the prying eyes of hot-blog-society.

The plan is to continue our tradition of feeding on the blog community for ideas and even our very genrefication. Thanks blogod of tag-teams, seriously, thank-you. But we are weak and small and can't comment pithily enough on the originating blog so typical of us will just bloat our own blog. As p-man has noted we are most naturally critics and not creators. Add to this that the medium is so generous in terms of opportunities to sponge, raid and scoop ideas, and we're not short of ideas (except of our own, perhaps). Some analysis here from our resident psychic, er psychologist please? MIM, helllloooo!

This week's topic -- books for kids; a really long comment on Wood's post from Tuesday, was it?

Reading about the Junebug family book experience brought to mind, somewhat unrelatedly of course, a number of conversations I have had with parents about books and babies. The last live one, as in not at a blog, went on something about how anywhere under 3 a book is really 'just for the parents'. Well unfortunately yes... but not necessarily so. Kids can love books at really early ages. But as with too many things parenting we have a ton of socialized junk that limits them and us. That said I think all that in utero stuff is well, at least, ahem pretty far outside my literary parental practices. Consider this a version of no comment / oh please.

Outside of the no comment class there are plenty of comments I do have to make about babies and books. Being a book handling professional I get pretty serious about this sometimes. I do consider a part of my job to make clear to people that books are not, in fact, sacred. We do ourselves a disservice when we elevate the text to something so prized as to be unapproachable. Not all books are special and not all reading activities are respectful. I feel that among other responsibilities I have a duty as a librarian to give people permission to trash books, figuratively and literally. Trust me, just because a work is paginated and bound between two covers does not infuse it with some inalienable value. I constantly see people glaze over and romanticize books as a group, OH please! I have fought the wars with parents who truly think we should keep all those copies of The story of the Redman in our schools and that an issue of National Geographic magazine from 1909 is 'interesting' for children. In those cases I simply must say shut up. And by that I mean, shut up. Books have lives, they live them, and then they can go. In the case of "Battle for Planet EPLA", the fine self-published doodle-art book exhibited to me early in my current job, some books' lives are very very short, uhm practically non-existent. So what kind of lives do the books of babies have? Messy and frayed ones. Please let your children use and discover books.

Tips for baby book handling:

1. Remove all dustjackets: they beg shredding.
2. Start early with those creepy, freaky books with lots of pictures of babies. Like Baby Days. Miss Fancy is on copy two of this tome. She was looney for it from age 9 months to almost 11 months.
3. Take a book to dinner. I frown on p-man reading at the table but it is an ideal diversion at mealtime before baby masters self-feeding. Bath books rock for this like this one, for example.
4. Mix it up for format and see what your kid is into at the moment, large format picture books, 3inch square board books, the soft touch series from Priddy are really great for the dinner table, pretty washable.
5. Lift-the-flap books with mixed textures are usually listed as suitable for Age 2 - these guidelines are CRAP. We loved Matthew Van Fleet's book Tails somewhere around age 8 months. This is the first book she of which ingested any significant amount. Do you think this will adversely affect the educational value of this item as a counting book?

Please please please let your children use their books. Use any book really. We are currently super-socialized to react as if a child has put a pin through the pet's eye if a page gets torn. Or something like their own eye if a cover comes off. There is glue people. There is tape. There are bookstores with many many more copies of these books. Sheep are not dying in droves to print these items. Enjoy the books.

Thanks to Juniper's Mama Wood for inspiring this post. If I hear one more parent feel at all crappy for their reading relationship with an infant I will have to put my fist through something. Look out kitty. If you guys all do this now what are we ever going to do once the families hit our schools and we have all of our preconceived notions of reading WE need to impose. In my literacy hothouse right now we are simply buried in expensive opinion that takes pretty much ALL of the fun out of reading. Wait for it. Wait for it people the no fun books will come for now a book is no different from a cardboard box or a sock or a Mr. Turtle pool to your kids. Try to see it from their point of view for a while.

And as for fun reading... look for our reviewing in the coming weeks on rare out-of-print Belgian books, our favourite cautionary verses, the very best translated German fart book, the role of government documents in developing good potty habits, and much much more. With these topics we do hope to keep up with pro-Spandex Dutch and his upcoming review of the latest cause celebre in KiddieLit, Dame Victoria Beckham.

Did you know that Sweet Juniper is nominated for a BOB? Consider casting a vote for them in the best new blog category, and be sure to tick in for MIM whilst you scroll past Morphing into Mama -- Best Mommy Blog. For Dad's my vote goes to the ingenue crew of Dadcentric what say you? Vote here.

And for even more lucid advice for books than this sad post my new favourite is: book buds you can even vote for them too of the BOB site.


Blogger Andrea said...

My daughters books are piled all over the floor in her playroom and she has gone from eating them to handing them to me so that I can read them to her in only a few months.
One of the happiest moments for me a short time ago was peering around the corner and noticeing that she was really truly enjoying her little baby books. She Loves "Piglet has the sniffles" and brings to me all the time. She loves to use my finger to point at the pictures. Her other recent favourite is a Japanese story book that involves a very naughty monkey. She is quite facinated with the pictures.
In the evening I was at a loss as to what to talk about with her I started reading "Charlie and the Chocolate factory" out loud. At first I thought she wasnt paying attention but if I stopped reading she would turn and look questioninly.
I hope that I can keep her love of books alive.

6:48 a.m.  
Blogger L. said...

This was a great post, except for one tiny point (nitpickpitpicknitpcik) -- an issue of National Geographic magazine from 1909 IS interesting for children! Or perhaps I was just a very weird child. I am speaking for myself, as I`m sure you`ve surmised -- I spent many hours in my grandparents` cellar, killing time during those monotonous visits by reading vintage National Geographics.

But I do see your point, and maybe such material needs to be moved to a special shelf for history wonks.

6:41 p.m.  
Blogger mo-wo said...

L. National Geog is always interesting?

Wha'about the 1927 October issue on the Morton expedition: "By Coolie and Caravan Across Central Asia".

Who needs it? My world has simply had a bit too much of the -- to put excruitatingly politely -- to much of the sideaffects of gentleman travellers. Thanks for getting my point. Writings have their lifespans.

And Andrea you do remind me of one aspect of my own love of children's literature I overlooked. So many sources advise you to talk to your kids constantly. I usually have lots to say for myself, Um, you have seen this blog. But any book is handy when you run out of material which I think can happen very easily in the face of infants and toddlers.

8:17 p.m.  
Blogger Anne said...

Very funny post. My mother would get all uptight at the thought of us kids tearing a page or leaving the book open, face down. We'll break its spine! Oh dear. Think of all those poor, crippled books.

Many thanks for the link to Book Buds!

--Anne Levy

10:23 p.m.  
Blogger Andrea said...

Ok you dont have an email on your profile:
The pony thing is serious. Where, what, how big and how much.

10:59 p.m.  
Anonymous MIM said...

So, here's me freaking out over Tod-lar ripping one of my books.

To me, MY books are precious because they carry the information I need for my profession. Husband's books on the other hand . . . I think I'm going to sell them on ebay since they're taking up space . . . space needed by MY precious books.

Oh, and you and p-man are beyond analysis. Really.

1:01 p.m.  
Blogger Mary P. said...

"Books for under-threes are only for the parents?" Who came up with that massive bit of idiocy? (And would thus rob me of a large and happy part of my time with my daycare tots along the way, thanks not so much.)

Well, if the only reason to read a book to your child is to teach them to read, well, yeah, it's a waste of time until three at least.

But if you're interested in spending time with your child, time that's interesting to BOTH of you -- and who's going to lie and say it isn't boring to play dollies or trucks or smash-that-tower for more than, oh, three minutes? If you're interested in setting an emotional background: books are nice, books make me feel warm and safe and snuggly, books are a comfortable retreat...

If that's what it's about, then you start from the minute they can hold their wobbly heads up and focus on a page.


3:09 p.m.  
Blogger stefanierj said...

Oh, p-man, if only the "please don't eat the books" thing were about the BOOKS--it ain't! It's about choking! I'm serious--the d-unit will chaw on a book until he gets bits large enough to choke a horse and then start gagging.

However, when he's got his paci, he does like to read with mama a bit. He flips the pages, squeals at the pictures of the moon, etc. I don't want him to learn to read by 2 (my husband apparently did that, and it's TOTALLY overrated), I just want to hang with him. Is that so wrong?? :)

7:26 a.m.  

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