Monday, July 20, 2009

Reading snazzy jazzy books to baby

Time for a book roundup!

These are the titles titillating my two-year-old toddler (dang, can't think of any more T words) presently. Oh, right — today.

Jazz Baby, by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory ChristieI have No Time for Flash Cards to thank for clueing me in to Jazz Baby, by Lisa Wheeler and R. Gregory Christie (there are multiple titles with the same name, so check the authors or make like picture). So glad I picked this up at the library, and Mikko loves it so much that I think I might (gasp) have to buy it.

It's one of those rhythmic, toe-tapping reads that makes you happy to have a toddler to read to, like Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb which I mentioned before, and Bear Snores On. The wordplay and meter arc and flow through a jazz improvisation as the baby sways and bebops with glee, before settling down to sleep, deep, deep, deep...oh, yeah.

This book cracks Mikko up in two unexpected ways: First, one of the early phrases is "Grandpa toot-toots," meaning on a trumpet, but my son has a wicked sense of toilet humor. (Hmm, wonder where he got that from... The thing is, you're allowed to be juvenile when you actually are one.) Secondly, each section ends with the baby shouting "Go, man, go," and Mikko literally screeches out "Goooooo" and employs his sign language for the word, learned from Baby Signing Time because I didn't have the foresight to realize it would be such a beloved sign. (It's pointing both index fingers in the direction you're go, go, going.)

Jazz Baby makes me happy as a parent, too, because it demonstrates a Continuum-happy lifestyle where the baby is surrounded by nurturing family members, neighbors, and friends of all ages and both genders. There is no disrespect for baby here, or for any age. Everyone's musical contributions are valid, and I think — and maybe I'm reading too much into this, but I'll go with it — that that shows that every person is validated and honored as well.

And, hey, as I mentioned, it's stinkin' fun to read!

Richard Scarry's Busy, Busy TownTwo other favorites right now are a treat from Grandma's recent visit. We were at the library for a German story experience and had some time to kill, so Grandma zeroed in on two Richard Scarry books — Busy, Busy Town and Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever — and asked if Mikko had either. He sadly did not, so they were checked out posthaste.

I have mixed feelings toward word books, without story to connect the vocabulary. I say mixed, because before having an actual child with whom to interact with them, I used to find them quite boring as a reader, but now I see how much delight Mikko takes in them. In fact, his favorite book for some time was First 100 Words, presumably because he could sign almost every one of those words. It was such a treat for him to point to a picture of say, a monkey, then sign it (scratch your armpits) and make an "eee, eee, eee" sound (that's what a monkey sounds like, natch), then wait for me to repeat it back to him and say "monkey" out loud several times to show I understood. It's been really helpful as we're learning German together, too, because I can "read" an entire book like this in German, reinforcing his (and my) bilingual vocabulary.

So, back to Richard Scarry... I'll just say, they're a big hit. Mikko goes ga-ga over the pages with trains, a recent obsession. He'll start saying "choo choo" and making the train sign (rubbing two fingers from each hand together) while I feverishly and obediently flip pages. Once I find the right one: "Train! Choo choo!" His joy is worth every hour spent poring over word books.

Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever revisedSomething that's on my mind about children's books is Arwyn's recent post about sexism in board books. I've noticed that Richard Scarry draws every woman and girl in a shapeless dress, and every male is in pants. But at least, I was reassured, he has a woman police officer on the cover of the Best Word Book Ever, even if she does have to wear her frumpy dress to work.

I should have known, though. I realized that the books must have been updated since their first publication, because there's a recycling truck on one page, and I know these books were around when I was a young'un. Let's just say that was before recycling, kids.

Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever 1963In gathering my little linkies and images for this article, I found the original 1963 cover to compare with today's version. It's so very intriguing!

Let's contrast: The woman police officer was definitely tokened in. A mother instead of a father used to be pushing the pram and leading a little boy (now a little girl) along on a trike. The house has been expanded to switch up the family roles. Originally, a woman bunny presided over the kitchen, while a boy bunny brushed his teeth upstairs. Now the boy has inexplicably changed to a girl (because girls have good hygiene too, dang it), and a man bunny has come to join the female in the kitchen. He's juicing some oranges for his tooth-brushing daughter and his layabout other child, and he's happy about it. There used to be only a male farmer in the field, hanging out with a scarecrow. The scarecrow has since become a woman farmer, and the term has been changed to the plural. The cow's still a cow. The firefighters are gender neutral, because I can't see if they've got skirts under their long coats.

Wasn't that fun?

And, hey, here's another funny thing as I'm learning German: There is no word I can find for "firefighter," only "fireman" or "firewoman." For some reason, this confounds me, because I want there to be a gender-neutral term.

Oh, here's another funny-slash-disturbing thing about the Richard Scarry books. In one of the train compartments, there's a pig eating what looks undeniably like a pork chop. I am agog.

2 comments:

Allie said...

We have that original 1963 book in French and my son loves it , he stares endlessly at the page with the instruments. Your comparison is very interesting and makes me want to grab a bunch of long published kids books and compare.

I am so glad you liked Jazz Baby!

Hobo Mama said...

Oh, yea, you found my shout-out! I was planning to head over and tell you how much we enjoyed your recommendations.

I've actually been inspired to check several versions of kids' books out of the library, because they really do change things quite a bit. Some things make sense — the board books conserve pages, for instance. And then there's the updating of racist or sexist or whateverist issues. But some just puzzle me. Big Dog, Little Dog, for instance. In the original: "Fred always had money. Ted was always broke." (Or was it the other way around? Whatever.) It's now something like "Fred always had money. Ted never had money." Is it that it was slang? And they cut out my favorite line: "The bird's got the word!"

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