Monday, December 3, 2012

A few random thoughts on various children's books

In Maurice Sendak's "Where the Wild Things Are," when the forest starts to grow in Max's room, the moon appears to be a crescent.  At least, there is only a crescent of it that is bright.  At the end of the book, when he sails back into the night of his very own room, the moon is solidly full.  Am I making too much of a bit of artistic variation?  Maurice Sendak is too good of an artist for this to be accidental, I think.

"Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" just keeps getting better and better the more children I read it to.  All four of my very different children have loved it in very different ways.  Our first, fascinated by words and letters from the get-go, loved the letters and would spend as much time poring over the alphabets at the beginning and end as on the story itself.  And she could recite the story itself (and did--"reading" it to Grandma over the phone) before she was three.  Our second daughter loved any book with a strong rhythm.  "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom" was tied with "Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb" for her favorite.  Our third daughter, for reasons which never did become clear to me only wanted to talk about the "coke-na-nuts."  Our fourth, our son, is proving himself all boy.  One of his first words was "Boom!" and he will chime with the "Boom!  Boom!" right on cue in the story when all the letters fall out of the tree.

Speaking of  "Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb," what's with all those monkeys?  My mom says that the book reads like someone's LSD trip out of the 60's.  I don't think I disagree.

The late Jack Kent had a wonderfully subversvive sense of what is real and what is not.  "Mr. Meebles" (1970) features the boy Donald's imaginary friend who comes to life when he claims the note that Donald writes about him.  I think that it's actually a story about story-telling, and closes with one of the most brilliantly surreal, post-modern pieces of dialogue that you're likely to find in a picture book:
  "How can you be here when I wasn't even thinking about you?" asked Donald.  "You're just an idea, and--"
  "And an idea doesn't exist unless somebody has it.  That's what you told me," said Mr. Meebles.  He reached into his hat, pulled something out of it, and said, "Well . . . I HAVE it.  You wrote it down on this piece of paper yesterday and went out without it."
  And so it was that Mr. Meebles no longer had to depend upon Donald.  Mr. Meebles was still only an idea.  But the idea was his own now.  Donald told him he could keep it.
And so our characters take on a life of their own.

 "Mr. Meebles" is out of print, but "There's No Such Thing As a Dragon" (1975) is readily available.  The theme here is distinctly less abstruse.  A dragon shows up in Billy's bedroom one morning, but Billy's mother tells him that dragons don't exist.  It has to run off with their house on his back before Billy's mother is willing to admit to the existence of evidence which challenges her preconceived conclusions.  I'm grateful to my mother-in-law for saving these from my husband's childhood stash.

The province of British Columbia gave "One Gray Mouse" out to every newborn born there in the year 2000, so we received it with our eldest daughter.  It's one of the best color and counting books I've seen, and there are a lot of both of those.

I'm enjoying Simcha Fisher's Advent book recommendation blog series.  I may never read "Goodnight Moon" the same way again though.  It had never occurred to me before to be bothered by the fact that there's a bowl of mush left out all night at room temperature--but I doubt now that I'll ever be able to forget it.

What's struck you as an adult, reading or re-reading children's picture books?

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Anchoress, over at First Things today, quotes theologian Timothy Muldoon:

“The Lord of the visible and invisible is calling to us through the voice of our most authentic selves with the words “discover your real self. Then give it away.” 

I find this very interesting.  It undermines, beautifully, the broken, self-immolating, idea of service that so many Christians (especially women) are subjected to.    

First.  It is only logical that we can only truly give ourselves away if it is truly ourselves that we give.  If we give something other than what we truly are, we give falsely, and indeed, we give what is not our own to give.  We can only righteously and rightfully give that which God has given to us.

Second.  The process of self discovery is not merely for self-gratification, or for the ever-ellusive self fulfillment.  It is to discover what it is that we have to give.

Third.  God made us in order for us to be give ourselves away.  It is only in the giving that the purpose of our being finds completion.  Merely discovering ourselves cannot bring fulfillment.  That would be like laying the meal out on the table and then standing there and smelling it, but refusing to eat.  Only the meal consumed has, as we cheekily tell the kids, fulfilled its destiny.

(Hey there--aren't you going to eat your dinner?  You're making your food feel bad, sitting there on your plate.  It wants to be eaten.  Being eaten is its purpose in life.  Listen--can't you hear your broccoli saying, "Eat me!  Eat  me!  I taste good!)

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Edgar Allan Pooh

Fan fic crossovers can take you some strange and wonderful places.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Song of Moses

What's even better than tracking down a decent recording of that 1970's praise song that's been running through your head since you were about eight years old?  Finding one recorded by 1980's era Petra.  Nostalgia score!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Book Review: Sabbath, by Dan Allender

Part of Thomas Nelson's "Ancient Practices" series, "Sabbath" is Dan Allender's exploration of what it means to set apart one day of the week as holy to God.  He sketches out his own history and story of Sabbath keeping (and lack thereof).  He challenges Christians to prioritize Sabbath keeping and then spends most of the book discussing what that does and does not look like.

Allender has a clean, conversational and intimate writing style.  In some ways, this book is an easy read.  But in many ways this is one of the more difficult books I have read.  The matieral that he lays out is dense and demands much consideration.  I found that I could no more read this book quickly than I could eat an entire chocolate mousse cake in one sitting.  Allender aims to be both grace-filled and convicting in this read.  He points out that keeping the Sabbath is one of the ten commandments and views ignoring it is a sin right there together with murder and adultery.  On the other hand, the vision that he paints for keeping Sabbath is so anti-legalistic that he leaves you wondering why anyone would not want to keep it.

I found this book peculiarly unsatisfying though because Allender is extrapolating in large part from personal experience and he starts from a massively different stage of life from the one in which I presently find myself.  As a mother with four children, my life, my worship, and my work are entangled with each other.  The children still need to be fed on Sunday.   More, the children still need to be taught and trained on Sunday.  In fact, training them in worship is one of the fundamental duties and responsibilities of a Christian parent.  It's one I'm priviliged to have, but--make no mistake--it *is* work.  In addition, as a pastor's wife, my husband's work week culminates with Sunday morning.  Sunday is not his Sabbath.  So then, if Sabbath is in part about community, how do we attend to it together as a family?  Do I personally try to keep it separate from my children?  Or how do I keep it together with them, when the work of parenting them is my work?  Allender addresses none of these concerns.  What he can do as a man with a day job, weekends off, and children grown is something different from what I find available to me.  Recommended with caveats.  Four stars.

I received this book from Thomas Nelson for review purposes as part of their BookSneeze program.