How Will We Remember This L(o)st Year?

March 11, 2021 § 2 Comments

I’ve been accused of using these pages as a kind of glorified baby book, and if that’s true, I appreciate you indulging me. In the trappings of our busy-ness, we don’t take enough opportunities to pause and process our life experiences—the good and the bad, the big and the small—and I have found blogging to be (almost) as therapeutic as a conversation with a good girlfriend over a glass of wine.

But I would argue that children’s books themselves can be gateways to reflection—as much for us as for our kids. Sharing them offers a respite, a chance to connect with our little ones, while their content strips back unnecessary clutter, revealing something of life’s essentiality, its basic truths, through economies of words and pictures. Even when they’re not expressly representing our own experiences, children’s books reflect back the life taking place in and around us.

It has been exactly one year since I sat around a table with my daughter and her classmates to lead what would be our last in-person book club. Several of the children knew almost nothing about the coronavirus that would shut down their school—and life as they knew it—just twenty-four hours later. When I arrived to pick up my daughter the next day, teachers threw hastily gathered notebooks and supplies into the back of our car, and my daughter and her carpool group climbed into their seats looking shell-shocked. Some giggled nervously. One started crying.

How do we want to remember this last year—a year that took so much, that has produced a kind of cumulative weariness we’d like nothing more than to shed, but was also not without moments of profound beauty and growth?

As it turns out, I have the perfect book for memorializing this time, for helping children of all ages process what they’ve seen and felt, done and not done. LeUyen Pham’s astute and gracefully executed Outside, Inside (Ages 3-103) is one that might find its forever home on a shelf beside baby books and photo albums. A book our children might someday take down and share with their own kids—let me show you what it was like when “everybody who was outside…went inside.” Amidst the many new children’s books tackling the subject of lockdown, this one rises to the top. Many would have us believe it was all rainbows, but this one holds the sadness alongside the wonder, the uncertainty alongside the hope. Outside, Inside reminds us that a new day is dawning, but we will never forget how we got here.

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Curious George, Alter Ego (Part 1)

May 6, 2012 § 1 Comment

When JP was two, I read him his first Curious George book (Curious George Goes to the Hospital, by Margret & H.A. Rey). Two and a half years later, still not a day goes by that we’re not reading about him, watching him on TV, or singing about him (Oh, you’re not familiar with the Curious George songs, the ones my husband and I are forced to make up EVERY SINGLE NIGHT before JP will go to sleep?).

My mother-in-law is a bit troubled that my son has chosen as his hero in life a monkey who spends a lot of time getting into a lot of trouble; she seems to think perhaps there are better role models than ones who can manage to knock over a bottle of ink, flood the house, release a herd of pigs, and knock over an entire dinosaur exhibit at a museum—all in a single day (Curious George Gets a Medal). But children are rarely that literal, and I like to think that it’s not George’s actions that inspire JP (though he laughs hysterically at them) but rather the motivation behind those actions: his insatiable, uncontainable curiosity. I might even claim that Curious George is a kind of Alter Ego for my son–and for scores of other boys and girls as well (I too was obsessed with him as a little girl).

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