As I’ve mentioned (a lot) in the past, storytime is a very important part of our daily routines. Whether it’s post-bathtime or not, our pre-bedtime ritual always involved getting a few books off our little guy’s bookshelf (although for quite some time he’s been old enough to pick them out on his own), all plop down on mama and dada’s bed and read together before calling it a night. It’s a ritual, and one that means quite a lot to all of us.
Sure, sometimes we read many of the same ones over and over again, because the little guy has his favorites that he wants to hear again and again, but every now and then, he lets us slip in a new one to try. That’s why when I was given the opportunity from Independent Publishers Group to take a look at a new book, I jumped at the chance.
So we recently read a new book before bed called “The Little Mouse Santi.”
The book, written by David Eugene Ray and illustrated by Santiago Germano, tells the story of a mouse named Santi who, more than anything else in the world, wants to be a cat. He practices all day at everything he thinks cats are good at – strutting themselves across a room, swishing his tail, cat baths, meowing, and of course, looking bored with life.
While the other mice laugh at Santi, he longs to join the cats he sees outside on the farm, eventually overcoming his courage to give it a try when he spots a cute orange tiger cat lounging in the grass.
The illustrations in this book by Germano are beautiful, with a slick, clean style across every line, making even those mice who are laughing at poor Santi downright adorable.
I really did enjoy it. If I had a critique it’s that I liked it enough that I wanted more from it. I would have liked a little more reassurance and confidence-building from Santi as he finally establishes the courage to step out of his comfort zone in the pursuit of his dream. I wanted Santi to feel bad about what the others say but get over it, realizing what they think doesn’t matter. What Santi does in the course of the story comes with a great gamut of emotions that I think everyone goes through at some point in their childhood, and I think a child could learn a lot about self-confidence and the joy of being unique if there were just a few touches upon overcoming those emotions along Santi’s journey.
It’s a swift read, and as I say, accompanied by absolutely beautiful color illustrations. Having never published a children’s book, I certainly can’t speak to the process. But as a reader, I felt Santi’s adventure and dreams could resonate a lot with a small child, but I’d love a little bit more to it.
Yeah, me neither. Until I had a two-year old that it is.
The little guy has been quite a fan of “Mickey’s Christmas Carol” – an affection not just limited to this time of year. He’s requested to watch it pretty regularly since Summer, actually. It’s started a love of “Unca Scrooge” that has transitioned into flipping through many of my old comics (and any new ones we can find for him) featuring the World’s Richest Duck.
But it’s also made him familiar with characters that, through the Disney-Mickey interpretation, he might otherwise be completely unaware of – at least at two and a half years old, that is.
He talks about Tiny Tim, he talks about Scrooge, and he talks about the Ghost – most importantly, Marley’s ghost. He narrates the special for us, telling me “Marley ghost is comin.” or “Giant ghost in Scrooge’s room!” mere seconds before it happens on screen.
And not just limited to Dickens, it has made me appreciate how interpretations can resonate with audiences and individuals far more than the original source material. While he has to inclination to want to pick up a copy of Dickens’ classic – even if it were in board or Little Golden Book form, he knows this story, its themes (“Scrooge mean”…”Scrooge bein’ nice now,” as he says) because of this particular interpretation of the story.
Literary Purists might balk at this, but honestly, I find it wonderful that a toddler is understanding the characters, themes, and story in such a morality tale, thanks to it being told to him through characters he likes and understands.
With that said, that affection and familiarity seems to transition far out of the TV screen. This entire Christmas season he has been putting blankets on his head and walking around the house saying “me a ghost!”
The other night, he made me hide under the blanket with him. There I was, in darkness, with the face of my amazing little boy, also sitting under the blanket, staring right at me with a huge smile.
“Dada, we play game?”
“What game could we play under here, buddy?”
“We play Jacob Marley game.”
“How do we play the Jacob Marley Game?”
(i pretend to be frightened and his giggling ensures)
There’s that song lyric about the ‘scary ghost stories’ of Christmas’ long, long ago.
Well don’t call it a comeback. If you ask this kid, they never left. 🙂
When I was in elementary school, there was nothing like the day the teacher would pass out those colored pieces of newsprint paper, folded into a makeshift catalog, brimming with choices of the literary sense. It was like a periodic Christmas catalog hunt, reading through every summary, your eyes passing over every book cover sitting there in the Scholastic book order form.
The only thing that probably matched up to it was when your book order actually came in. Even that might be questionable because, let’s face it – it was that cornucopia of choices, the anticipation for the books to arrive that brought about that feeling of excitement and euphoria moreso than actually having the book.
So, when Meg (who is a school librarian, or Library Media Specialist as they are today called, because they do much, much more than in years past) had her annual week of the Book Fair coming up for school, I thought two years old might be a good time to introduce the little guy to the awe and wonder that is the school Book Fair (as well as give him a peek into where mommy goes every day).
Making our way through some dark, snowy back roads one recent night, we made it to Meg’s school for the one evening during the week when she stays late for any parents who want to come with their kids after school or after extracurricular activities to check out the books.
It was truly an experience for the little guy, even before we stepped foot into the library. As we made our way from the car and across the parking lot, we talked about this being not only where mommy worked, but that it was a school. He’s heard of school before, in books and in cartoons. But he had never actually seen one, and he was truly excited that he was seeing ‘mommy’s school.’
Then we got to the library and you’d have thought we walked into Santa’s workshop.
Only a few customers were there when we arrived, but that didn’t stop the monkey from running exuberantly to the shelves and grabbing any book he could with a cover that appealed to him. It wasn’t long before he was plopping down on the floor of the library and just shifting through the colorful pages.
As Meg occasionally tended to the business at hand, I watched over the little guy – or chased after him as the case may be, once he noticed there was so much more to do beyond those Book Fair shelves. (Note: smartboard markers and erasers are not toys. But try telling a two year old that). In between her customers, we’d have the whole library to ourselves, where, as a family, we’d look through shelves, talk about which books we’d like, and generally just have a good time. Probably more fun than you were supposed to be having in the library as a kid. But, hey, we’ve got an in with the librarian. She’s pretty cool, I hear.
From shelf to shelf, book to book, it was an overwhelming experience. It was sort of like our trips to Barnes and Noble, but this time it was where mommy worked, and he seemed to fully understand the full advantage he was taking of the situation, from going behind the library desk, or just shouting ‘chase me, dada!’ as he ran through the library stacks.
He seemed to be having a “Mr. Social” Day, greeting many who came in to the Book Fair,
getting in the way of walking around with other kids as they tried to peruse the book shelves. At one point, he even tried to play the role of assistant. A student who was probably about 8 or 9, I would say, came in and asked Meg for a book. It wasn’t on the Book Fair shelves, so Meg went to look in the back. At which point, our guy turned to the girl who was looking for the book and says “Nope. No more books…” Luckily, she took his passion for being a part of things with a smile.
It’s hard to express just how grateful I am that he loves books as much as he does. I know I’ve probably talked ad-nauseam since starting this blog about how special our pre-bedtime storytime routine is. It’s the sort of thing that pains me if I have to miss. We’ve been doing it, quite literally, since he got back from the hospital. Now, it’s just part of what we do. Only these days, he picks out the books he wants himself.
I’ve read that there are several points throughout life where children decide if they are going to continue being readers or not. My hope is that by having books (and such excitement for them) be such a presence in our lives, that it will help continue to foster that love of reading, and of the imagination he seems to have in abundance. I consider us truly blessed for this. I really do.
I bought several more books for him than I had intended, but a) it helps benefit the school and b) there were so many good kids’ books, how could I not?!
All in all, we really had a great time.
Even I felt like an eight year old again when I walked amid the Book Fair shelves.
And it was awesome.
I wonder if Meg has any of those book order forms lying around…
As I’ve probably mentioned before, we’ve been incredibly blessed that our little guy started to use the potty when he did, which was around Christmas time at about a year and a half. We were shocked, surprised, a little overwhelmed, but completely over the moon that he decided to guide himself and tell us that he was ready to start using it.
Lately though, there’s been an odd little trend developing – the potty as a delay tactic.
Much like a well-planned army strategy, the little guy will very agreeably go to bed, per routine, after we’ve read a few books. All seems well until he begins to realize he doesn’t quite want to go to sleep. First, you hear the rumbling in the crib of a little one moving around. Next, the toys that talk as he plays, puttering around as we hope he starts to fall asleep. Then it comes.
“It’s sleepy time, buddy. Time to go to sleep.”
“Potty! Go potty!”
One of us enters the room.
“You’ve gotta go potty, buddy?”
“Uh-huh. Potty! Go!”
And it’s into the bathroom, plopping him on the potty (with his cushion-y little seat adapter for little buns) and away we go. Sometimes, yes, it is quite legit, and we’re very thankful that he tells us so that we can avoid the alternative. But there’s some nights, like a recent Monday night, where while legit, quickly turned into a 45 minute gab session as he sat on the potty, done for a while and just wanting to talk.
“I think you’re done, buddy. Are you all done?”
“Okay, well give it a try to get anything else out.”
And we sit and we talk, and we talk. And before you know it, a half hour or 45 minutes has flown by and you start to realize “he has completely played us.”
And I fall for it every time.
One builds his house of straw, one of sticks and one of bricks and when the Big Bad Wolf comes calling, it’s only the pig in the brick house, who spent the time working hard on his home instead of goofing off and taking the easy way out like his siblings, who the Wolf can’t get to.
At least, that’s how I remember it.
But apparently, I’ve had it wrong all these years.
You see, our son recently received a collection of books based on Rand McNally’s Junior Elf book line published from 1947 to 1986. Some still maintain the original art while others have updated illustrations. And for some reason, our little guy frequently gets drawn to two, in particular, out of the entire set – The Three Bears and The Three Little Pigs. Maybe it’s a numerical thing, who knows.
Leaving the three bears in the woods for the moment, a few frequent readings of The Three Little Pigs recently got me thinking about the story on the page versus the story in my memory – as they greatly differ.
In this book version, recreated from the Junior Elf version in, I believe 1957, the mother pig can not afford to keep her three sons and sends them off into the world to find their fame and fortune.Rather than have any type of intention as to what to do for shelter, each one chances upon people carrying materials along the road – one straw, one sticks and one bricks. And they each build a house. There’s no lesson about planning or thinking ahead, or working hard. Just a chance encounter that leads to how they build their homes.
The story progresses as the Wolf arrives and Pigs One and Two lose their homes (but not their lives) and the Wolf heads to Pig Number Three in his brick house. Just as my memory recalled, he can’t blow the house down. But that’s not where the story ends.
The story then takes a turn as the Wolf, day after day tries to lure the pig out of his brick house.
By inviting him to go places.
The Wolf invites him to go pick beets from a garden and sets up a time to meet the next day. Because, why wouldn’t you accept an invite to meet up with a beast who is standing outside your door and threatening to eat you?
The pig shows up to the garden early and picks the beets before the Wolf even shows up. And when the Wolf tries the same trick with apple picking, the Pig does the same thing, showing up early, but finding the wolf showing up early too. The pig throws an apple at the Wolf and runs for his life back to the brick house.
At this point, you’d think he’d want to stay inside and away from this wolf, right?
No, no. Because the Pig then accepts an invite from the Wolf to go to the fair.
The pig goes to the fair, early once again – and by early, the books says 2 am early. What the heck kind of fair is going on at 2 am?!
And at the fair, the pig buys a butter churn which, when he sees the Wolf coming toward the fair, he hides in. It tips and goes rolling down the hill, scaring the Wolf, who later, for some inexplicable reason, stands outside the house of the pig and tells him how scared he was that a butter churn was rolling after him.
The pig laughs and tells the Wolf that he was inside the butter churn.
Shortly thereafter, the Wolf tries to come down the chimney of the brick house, where the pig has a pot of water boiling on the fire and the Wolf dies. I tend to skip this part (as I don’t think a two-year old really needs to know that) and just ad-lib that it was so hot the Wolf went flying back up the chimney and ran away.
Normally, I wouldn’t feel the need to write hundreds of words about an age-old tale like The Three Little Pigs but it has been handpicked so much recently by my son that I can not shake the strange deviations from the story I remember.
So, I did what I tend to do when something gets stuck in my brain and I just can’t get over the need for answers – I hit the internet.
While the Three Little Pigs was first seen in print in the 1840s, it apparently, is believed to go back even farther than that, but that original version is very much how the printed book we have at home plays out, which I never knew.
I had no idea and yet each time we would read the book, I kept muttering inside my mind “well, that’s not how it really happens. This is weird.”
Nope. I was just wrong.
It just goes to show you how much media can influence your own perspective and recollections, because I am confident I read the book as a kid, but have retained no memory whatsoever of these ‘foreign’ components I mentioned.
All I seemed to remember as ‘the real story’ is this:
So there you have it. Walt Disney has actually altered my memory perception. The Silly Symphonies version of this tale has superseded all recollection of any actual stories I read of this tale.
Regardless, of the three choices, I’ll still build my house of brick, thank you very much. 🙂
My wife has decided to jump back into theatre. She’s missed it for quite some time, as it was a very large part of her life for so long (and how we met), but we both felt when she was pregnant that it was best to step away from the stage and take some time to just be a family.
Sooner or later, that itch is hard to resist and now that the little guy is in that stage between 1 1/2 and 2 years old, I think she was really starting to feel the pull of the performing arts once again.
A side note: I think it was also spurred on by an incident in the Fall when we got a call from a theatre director who lost a cast member two weeks before open and asked me if I would jump in to help out. I did, but it wasn’t out of a great love to go back; it was merely to help someone out who helped me in the past. That was only a few weeks, and usually when I’d get home, he would be fast asleep and Meg would be enjoying a nice cup of tea.
We sort of thought that’s how it would go this time around for her.
In many ways, it’s been a wonderful experience, and an educational one at that. She’s been off to rehearsals by the time he and I get home, so on an average night, I’m feeding him his dinner (which she’s been nice enough and helpful enough to leave behind, making life easier), we have some playtime, he gets a bath, we do some story time, etc., but solo.
It has allowed for some incredible bonding between me and our little monkey, I will say. Just thinking of how anxious I would be of giving baths prior to the past few months, I realize how much this time has helped. Previously, Meg tended to give him baths. I would occasionally, but she did it on a regular basis. So, now that it’s been in my hands, it has somehow gone from the ‘ugh, how are we gonna do this?’ or ‘what am i doing?’ to ‘you do this, buddy, while I get the bath ready’ and it has turned into a very seamless (and fun) process.
We have fun, we splash, we talk and sing, and the whole thing just goes like any other motion I go through like putting him in the car or reading him a story. It’s helped me evolve as a dad, honestly. And I like it.
The only hitch we have run into with this ‘guys night’ scenario is that the little guy can spend an entire day or evening with me and we’re just fine, up until storytime is over and it’s time for bed. He refuses to go to bed without mommy home. We read book after book after book, and I think ‘is this the one that’ll get him tired?’ and he does get pretty tired, but he fights it. He fights it with a longing and hope that mommy is going to walk through that door and put him to bed, proper, because daddy is just not what he wants at that moment.
I’ve tried a lot of different things – rocking him, singing to him, giving him a few minutes to calm down once he’s in the crib and yelling for mommy, but unlike when Meg does it, he doesn’t calm down. He only makes himself worse. Sometimes I’ll get lucky and if I lay him on our bed after that, he’ll be tired enough to fall asleep next to me or on my arm or something like that, where we tend to remain until Meg comes home and somehow, through mystical or magic powers, because there’s no other way I can comprehend, picks him up and places him in the crib without him blinking. It’s amazing.
I know it won’t be like this forever, and while I would LOVE for him to be able to fall asleep comfortably with me like he does with her, I wouldn’t change this past month or so. After almost three years (counting pregnancy), she finally has the chance to get out and have a life outside of being ‘mommy’ for a change. It’s something she not only deserves, but needs to have in her life, especially when it’s something she’s so passionate about, like theatre. I admit, I haven’t been the most communicative about her show by the time she gets home, not out of disinterest, but mostly just due to the combination of fatigue and irritability after a long fight to get him down. But I’m happy she’s getting back to something she loves and something she identifies with.
I also wouldn’t change a thing because, despite all that difficulty, all the fighting he may give me when it’s time to go to bed, those hours of the night beforehand, when it’s just the two of us, laughing, playing, putting blankets on our backs like capes, giving him a bath and singing songs along with the radio, or just reading story upon story with him curled up in my arms, makes any difficult part so trivial. This is my son, this is my little guy, and these are times that will only last for so long.
I want to enjoy them and learn from them as much as I can.