When we are buying books for children, we tend to be drawn to the types of books we might personally enjoy. We can’t help it. It can come as a bit of a surprise when our kids remind us that they have their own tastes, tastes that are different than ours. It’s a positive thing, really. It’s a part of developing their individual personality, and choosing books and toys on his/her own is one of the first ways a kid learns to think for him/herself and gain confident decision-making skills.
However, sometimes the books my daughter loves are the ones that make me cringe. I try to keep the “Oh lord, not again,” on the inside so as not to ruin the magic of bedtime, but sometimes it’s hard.
However (again), when all else fails, these are the books that are guaranteed to please. If you have a kid who is less than enthusiastic about books, the gimmicky pain in the ass books may be something to try. Think of them as icebreakers in the cocktail party of literacy.
10 Button Book
I hate the Button Book. MiniB knows this, because she has asked for it so often that I stopped being able to restrain my groans. She doesn’t care that I hate it. She thinks it’s funny. Now she chooses it with a wicked twinkle in her eye when she feels like playing a trick on me. It is a counting book with a few words per page (One button Billy. Two buttons silly. I can recite the whole thing from memory, if you’d like.). Attached to the book are ten, one-inch plastic buttons on pretty ribbons, and each page has the appropriate number of spaces where you can fit said buttons. There are five attached to the top and five on the bottom, so we each get half to place. This is where the groan comes in. MiniB, the future graphic designer, has definite opinions about what colors should go where, and it changes every single time. I always try to use the “wrong” colors, so there ensues complex negotiations, revisions, and bargaining about who gets to put which color where. Again, it encourages counting, decision-making, and reading. It’s a good book. It even has a label promising that it has been safety tested so your baby won’t choke or strangle. I still want to hide it sometimes.
Strawberry Shortcake Scratch-N-Sniff
These books piss me off. I love Strawberry Shortcake. I love to scratch-n-sniff (except the chocolate ones – I always pretend to smell the chocolate ones because fake fudge smells give me a headache). These loves are not enough to overcome the fact that the writing is terrible. The newer books are slightly better, but they still read like they were written by fifth graders who are trying to sound grown-up. Call me crazy, but I don’t think we raise good readers and writers by giving them crap examples when they are young. The ones that aren’t scratch-n-sniff are even worse because they are unrelieved bad writing without the nostalgia factor of odd chemical fruit smells.
Oh dear lord, these are the worst. They have a little working keyboard with labeled, color-coded keys. Each page has a short musical score, usually featuring simple songs like “Hot Cross Buns” with new lyrics, tailored for whoever is on the cover. We have the Disney Princess version, but Thomas the Tank Engine and Mickey Mouse are both readily available. The keyboard is loud. When MiniB asks for a demonstration, as she is wont to do, the keys are too small for my giant man-fingers. When she plays her own songs, the result can politely be described as “cacophony.” The upside is, with the door closed I can’t really hear the not-quite-music and she is very happy to play her piano on her own. I do like things that let her entertain herself.