Sunday, March 15, 2009

What I've learned about children's books

Behold, The Baby's library, which is a work in progress but well underway. The "nursery" is beginning to come together, which is wonderful, but I continue to be more concerned with the library than any other aspect of it. Perhaps because it means I get to focus on BOOKS rather than the solid terrifying fact of a baby coming to live at our house in just ten weeks. (Eeek. That's ages away, right?)

In less frightening news in children's literature, I am finding my experience at The Children's Book Bank quite fascinating. I remember last December at the Art Matters "A Passion for Reading" panel that my co-panelist, author/illustrator Genevieve Cote provoked a bit of controversy by suggesting that in her experience (through school visits), boys and girls liked different kinds of books. Which is not the sort of thing some people like to hear, but I find it to be true with adult boys and girls, so why not with the wee ones?

I wish it weren't particularly so, but the little boys I read with at the Book Bank are riveted by books about trucks, and the girls love ones about princesses and fairies. Neither book in either genre even has to be good or interesting, but these kids know what they like. When the girls get older, the fairy fixation continues with a rather wretched series called The Rainbow Magic Fairies, which probably isn't any worse than The Babysitters Club and Sleepover Friends, which I was devoted to at that age. They all like novelized versions of TV shows and movies. Jillian Jiggs and Robert Munsch go over as well as they did when I was little. (Yesterday a little boy informed me that he knew Robert Munsch. "Really?" I asked. "How do you know him?" "Well, I have his books," he said.)

Kids have become accustomed to really amazing and dynamic illustrations in books, which means that classic stories like Make Way for Ducklings or Blueberries for Sal often get picked over. Of Eric Carle, no one can get enough. Dora The Explorer books are more educational tools than books, but they're less obnoxious than I thought they'd be. Surprisingly, Barbie books aren't atrocious, but they're all a little bit dumb. Madeleine still has her fans, and Curious George is timeless.