Thursday, October 19, 2006

Birthday boys and books

Tuesday was a typical stormy New England fall day, one that starts dark and overcast and stays that way till the true dusk when the sun finally gives up and passes to the other side of the world. I drove through the country back roads in autumn rain, marveling how the half light made the reds and yellows and tawny leaves glow against the dark grey, almost purple, sky.

I was heading up to see the nephew whose third birthday it was. The poor little fellow had a cold and an ear infection as did his baby sister and mother. While there was a proper party planned for Saturday, there was to be some celebration Tuesday dependent on who was well enough to do what. I went up with a bag of toys for him and felt a little self silly that I didn’t bring him books (not that I haven’t given him enough, mind).

When I arrived at the house, R--- comes racing out to greet me. “Uncle ------! Uncle ------! You’re here!” as if I have been away for months. I scoop him up and give him his regulation zerbert ( and after I greet my worn looking sister-in-law who is carrying the baby on her shoulders like a little laughing Buddha, I set him down and precede to dole out his presents.

After a complicated dinner, R---- wants me to read to him on the floor of his bedroom. Sick boys and birthday boys get their wishes. I grab some of my favorites, a Richard Scarry collection and Where the Wild Things Are but R--- is having none of it. He pulls out this bargain book I got him an encyclopedia of North American animals, way over his reading level but lots of big pictures. It seems R--- is into character not plot. He sits in my lap and we turn every page and he asks me “What’s that? What’s that?” at each picture at each animal and when I realize that he probably knows which animal is which, I turn the tables on him and he answers just about each one. Not bad for just three years old, eh? How many of you know what a fisher is? ( Mercifully, we were called for birthday cake when we hit the birds because they were more than half the book and even R----’s cuteness would test my patience for naming every breed of duck.

So today’s recommendation is from the nephew. Having seen the Disney video Brother Bear repeatedly, he became obsessed with bears. So uncle Bookkook found this great series of books By Karma Wilson and wonderfully illustrated by Jane Chapman. I got him The Bear Snores On (0-689-83187-0) when he wouldn’t sleep at night, The Bear Wants More (0-689-84509-X) when R--- became a fussy eater and Bear’s New Friend (0-689-85984-8) when his little sister was born. All of these books are sweet and lushly illustrated from the inside cover to the jackets, often with one illustration on the two open pages. The rhymes are simple and repetitive (great for little ones) and the illustrations capture the personality of every character. R--- loves them. (Pssst! Don’t tell him this but he is getting Bear Stays Up for Christmas (0-689-85278-9) for Christmas. These books are from Simon and Schuster and some come in board books.

Karma Wilson's website