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The Smartest Baby in the World

I've been judging books by their covers lately. When I take little Grouting to the library and pick out a couple of children's books for her - short ones, lots of pictures - I've been choosing them based on cover art and title. I go for variety, avoiding multiple books by the same author, and not too many involving dragons. (There are lots of young children's books involving dragons these days.)

The books I was returning today were an anemic lot, plot-wise. Loveabye Dragon had lovely illustrations, but was a more-or-less by-the-book romance story, with a dragon swapped in for the knight. Leon and the Place Between had lush and elegant images as an excuse for a faint bit of plot. I only heard Zebra's Hiccups from the next room, while doing dishes, so can't really pass judgement. When judging books by their cover, I shouldn't be surprised if the artwork is often the best part.

I took Grouting back today to try again (and to have left the house at some point today). I picked three on glancing acquaintanceship and took them to the self-service checkout machine. One was an "Object Unknown", to be taken to the desk.

The librarian swiped little Grouting's library card and then tried the book, but again nothing. Inside the front cover, as he found when he opened it, the book was stamped "Withdrawn". "It was misfiled. It should have been on the for-sale rack, but it's only something like 10 pence." And then he gave it to us. I've paid enough late fees over the years to this system that I was entirely happy to accept.

We sat down and read her newest book tonight. Baby Brains: The Smartest Baby in the World is a delightful bit of science fiction, a nicely balanced tale of an impossibly smart baby who's earned his MD by about two weeks of age and ends up in outer space. Not only did I do better in picking library books this time around, but one of them, quite a good one, is unexpectedly for keeps.

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gillo
Jan. 23rd, 2013 12:59 am (UTC)
My writing for children and young people course last term required us to look at a range of books for very small people, and it became instantly clear that surprisingly few books, even for that age group, cross the Atlantic. We had an American, a Saudi-American and a Canadian in our group, and none of them had come across most of the writers the rest of us Brits were getting quite nostalgic about. You might enjoy seeking out Jan Pienkowski's brilliant Meg and Mog books and almost anything by the Ahlbergs, but especially The Baby's Catalogue. Jill Murphy's books are re-readable - an important feature for the point, not necessarily far distant, when Grouting will demand the same book to be read to her several times consecutively.

At this stage you need to go for books you can bear to live with, as they will move in and take over, like furniture.
eulistes
Jan. 23rd, 2013 02:45 pm (UTC)
Yes, this is true, even up to the chapter-book stage! Harry Potter might have been one of the first that really accomplished that leap successfully, and I found that most of my American friends had no idea of the British kid-lit foundations of a lot of it. When T. and I were assembling our baby registry a couple of weeks ago, the books he waxed nostalgic about were almost totally different from the ones I remembered best, with the exception of Beatrix Potter and Enid Blyton--and I only had Enid Blyton in the States because my father took particular care to get them for me from the UK.
owlfish
Jan. 24th, 2013 12:10 am (UTC)
Thank you for the recommendations! I've read Meg and Mog (I assume the first) at a friend's house last year and quite enjoyed it.

At this point, we're mostly sticking to library books, and letting her chew on the board books she's been given. (Which means she loves the board books best of all.)
jvvw
Jan. 24th, 2013 08:35 pm (UTC)
We're definitely at the 'again again' stage with books and our 2-year-old which means that anything I can't tolerate reading a dozen times in a row has to be swiftly filtered out before he decides to ask for it everyday. That's probably a far harder test for a book to pass than my son liking it.

At this age, it's really important that the pictures are interesting, with lots of different things in, and not too samey. Having said that 'Dear Zoo' and 'Where's Spot?' are definitely up there among his favourites at the moment. There are lots of books around that are just a bit too removed from his reality as well, although it's hard to say where the line is. When he was younger, one of the main problems I found was that pictures would be too stylised to be easily recognisable, although that's becoming less of an issue.