Hello friends and fellow bloggers. This week I am finally putting my two cents in about National Picture Book Month (http://picturebookmonth.com/). Instead of focusing on why pictures books are important for kids, I’m going to focus on why they’re important for adults. Everyone should read one picture book a week and encourage your loved ones to do so as well. So,since Christmas is right around the corner, I’m going to suggest three ways to find great picture book gifts for those you love:
Give a picture book to someone you love because it is a funny reminder of the person. I gave Matt for his birthday The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales. Until I moved in with Matt (a typical Wisconsinite who is obsessed with cheese), I was unaware of “stinky cheese.” I have now lost count of the number of times I’ve heard him say, “Ahhh, stinky cheese!” after he has disappeared into the kitchen. I suggested he go as the Stinky Cheese Man for Halloween next year:
Find out a loved one’s favorite book as a child and give it to them. This will be fun for you and your loved one. Matt mentioned a few months back that he loved The Merry Shipwreck as a child. I bought it immediately, curious to know what a young Matt loved. I was three sentences into it, and I actually thought: “Oh my god, I’m dating Captain Barnacle.” Upon opening it, he read the whole story to me and clearly loved all the ways he was identifying with Captain Barnacle as an adult. I wish I had known about this book when Matt was out east and sailing all the time:
My last recommendation makes for great gift giving but is also why you should try and read one picture book per week: picture books remind of us what is good and make us think about things we are afraid of in a way that is life-affirming. I recently was reflecting on the popularity of tv shows with depressing plot lines: “Breaking Bad,” the story of a perfectly normal chemistry teacher with a loving family who becomes a drug manufacturing murderer or “Homeland,” the love story of a troubled bi-polar woman and a marine turned terrorist. The same can be said for a lot of popular YA series as well. I found myself thinking: can’t we discuss the importance of family or fears of dying or belonging without some really horrible event triggering it?
For me, picture books are hold-out from our tendency to be drawn toward ridiculously over dramatic and complicated plots. Childhood is a unique time in our lives. It is a time when we feel the bonds of friendship and family more immediately, but we are not yet aware of the concepts of family and friendship. It’s also the only time in our lives when we are told it is ok to be scared of pretty much anything we want. As such, picture books provide an opportunity for authors (and readers) to explore all aspects of life but to do so in a direct and simple manner. The directness, for me, is refreshing and, as I previously said, ultimately life-affirming. I’ll leave you with a famous passage from The Velveteen Rabbit. The number of adult themes in this short passage is pretty astounding:
“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day, when they were lying side by side near the nursery fender, before Nana came to tidy the room. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”
“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.
“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”
Hope everyone has a great week. Please feel free to comment with why you love picture books or what picture book you are going to read this week. Happy reading!