Sunday, July 04, 2010

A small bottle of wine

Last summer a two year old's favorite book was Rosemary Wells/Iona Opie's MOTHER GOOSE; we read it so many times that we learned every single one by heart. (He also wanted to know what every word -- including "treacle" -- meant.) He loved the book so much that he kept asking me to read it even once he could say the rhymes along with me. We both loved the sounds of the words, even when they didn't make any sense; and I think that nursery rhymes are a great way to give children a love of language. I bet if someone did a scientific study of them they might even discover that the sounds they repeat are the very sounds babies need to learn in order to strengthen the muscles that will later enable them to talk.

I myself love fairy tales just as much -- but those books have too many words and not enough pictures for him. So this summer I was very excited to find a new book of fairy tales with pictures on every page.

I love the cheerful illustrations -- but Red Riding Hood brought "a basket of food," not "a little cake and a small bottle of wine." I remember loving those details when I was a child, especially the small bottle -- I wanted that basket! The story also left out the mother's warning not to stray off the path; without that detail,the plot loses much of its point.

The only thing Jake liked in the book was the fight scene in The Three Billy Goats Gruff. We never even read most of the stories, and I couldn't help wondering if the way the author dealt with details was why the stories didn't capture his interest. I'm all for cutting out unnecessary words and details, but I think too many books now -- especially picture books -- don't pay enough attention to the words. This can make stories bland and deprive children of the joy words can bring.