Tag Archives: children’s book wisdom

The Things You Learn Tidying the Children’s Room

messSo I spent last weekend tidying our children’s book room – something every bookstore owner lives for the opportunity to do. It’s so much fun to rediscover old classics, things you loved as a child. That’s why it takes so long to do a kids room reset; you have to allow twenty minutes of every hour for reading favorite bits.

It was pretty bad. Every Halloween we give out books at the annual afternoon merchant’s trick or treat, and you can imagine what 300 kids traipsing through the place in the space of 3 hours does. And no, it hadn’t been tidied since then. Don’t judge. We’re busy.

There was nothing for it but to start to the left of the door and work my way ’round. (That or a flamethrower, Jack said.) So I separated the Math from the English homeschooling books, Animals Fiction from Animals Non-fiction, and America from All the Other Countries, back into their appropriate shelf bins.

This is where the problems began. One doesn’t want to be part of the problems America is experiencing right now, and I found myself suddenly stymied, standing stock still (heh, get it, stock? Never mind) in the middle of the children’s room, holding a book of Native American folktales in my hand, looking to the right at the All About America shelf, to the left at the Read To Me section……

It was the beginning of the slippery slope. Did The Story of Martin Luther King go in Biography or America? Did Intelligent Design go in Science or Christian Homeschool? Suddenly, I was making political decisions left and right. All I wanted to do was tidy up……

The dangers grew worse. The Natural World was a big book lying in a dusty corner; when I picked it up, one spider sitting astride it was just finishing off another. I guess she’d had enough of his empty promises about watching the egg sac. (I took them outside so she could finish her meal in peace, and then set up housekeeping elsewhere. It’s good to move in the Spring.)

Dead ladybugs from the November invasion (they come every year), a plant that had grown through one of the windows where it hadn’t sealed properly, books wedged behind shelves where they’d fallen–on and on I went, shelf by shelf until by the afternoon Day 2 I had reached Adventure Fiction.

Smack in the middle of the adventure books were two self-published erotic fantasy novels.

Good thing not many kids read adventure these days. I sent the strays back to their home turf with a stern warning not to return, and congratulated myself on avoiding a lawsuit. It’s not like they were illustrated or anything, but can you imagine some kid coming out of the room saying, “Mommy, what does e-j-a-c…” It wasn’t going to end well.

By the end of day two, the books stood upright in their correct locations; I had abandoned the idea that a child’s world could be split into a Christian versus general worldview and had put the All Other Countries Besides America books in Social Studies. This means a board book of Minnie Mouse in Spanish is next to Learning about Others Grade 4, but hey, they look happy together.

The final piece was labeling everything. After some consideration, we created a tag called Parental Guilt for all the “You’re doing it wrong” titles about how to make your kid smarter, stronger, faster, safer than s/he is now. Someday I’m going to snap and divide Parental Guilt into “Need to Know” (Ridlin and ADHD, Autism assistance, etc.) and “Don’t Be Ridiculous” (teach your pre-schooler to get straight A’s etc.)

And so it goes. The room will stay clean for a few weeks, and I have blocked all the places where ladybugs, spiders, and Triffids – ehm, plants – can get in. It smells good, looks good, and is well-organized according to my brain.

Heh heh heh. Yeah. C’mon down. We got the Erotica out.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Uncategorized

Dragons Among Us?

kent dragon

My friend Teri read the post yesterday about Firmin, and asked about its suitability for her eight-year-old.

Uh, probably not. Firmin has intense, child-unfriendly issues in his whiskered, oversized head. But that did set me thinking about great children’s books, and my friends Nicole (who sells them out in Memphis) and Chris (who gets kids excited about checking them out of the library here). We each have books we recommend over and over, so I’m inviting them to leave their comments on this post, or do a guest blog about favorites.

My most beloved childhood book doesn’t seem to make the “hit parade” very often. In fact, looking up pictures to add to this blog, I found its illustrator celebrated on a “forgotten geniuses” site. Hmmph.

Jack Kent was famed for his cute, plump, round-nosed drawings of people and his startling juxtaposition of odd things against calmness: children followed by lions, dragons having pancakes for breakfast. When I was still too young to be able to read, I had a book called There’s No Such Thing asĀ  a Dragon, with accompanying record.

I “read” (lip-synced) Dragon over and over; in fact, that’s why my dad gave in and taught me to work my children’s record player–so he wouldn’t have to keep restarting the stupid thing. I think that book taught me to read. It’s the kind that, as Nicole says (quoting somebody famous), you can read at 50 as happily as at 5.

The premise: Billy wakes up to find a dragon about the size of a kitten at the foot of his bed. He tells his parents, “I have a dragon!” and his parents say (firmly, throughout the next 10 pages) that there’s no such thing as a dragon. So the dragon gets bigger and bigger until it takes off with the house on its back and finally the parents admit that the dragon is there–whereupon the dragon shrinks back to kitten size. Billy gets to deliver the final kicker: the dragon kept getting bigger until someone believed in it, because it just wanted to be noticed.

As an infant, toting this book about the house, lisping the word “dwagon” and shouting there was one in my bedroom, I might not have gotten all the intricacies, the symbolism, the plot development. But like any child, I knew what it felt like to be ignored sometimes, and that adults didn’t always understand what they couldn’t see–which was a silly way to live.

Growing older, I still couldn’t have explained that the drawings– the dragon’s tongue sticking out of its mouth, Billy’s cheerful aproned mother, the father’s Fedora hat–contributed to the enjoyment of the story. I couldn’t get my tongue or brain wrapped ’round the vocabulary needed to talk about the 1950s neighborhood where Billy and his dragon-that-wasn’t-there-except-it-was lived.

But I took the book with me when I left home as an adult, and now I can analyze the symbolism of a dragon that keeps getting bigger until someone acknowledges it, the sweetness of the story’s simple-yet-wise plot. The record is long-gone, but I can recite the words without looking as I turn the pages, engrossed in Jack Kent’s illustrations.

Sometimes you can go home again, and it’s the books of childhood that take you there.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, humor, publishing, small town USA, VA