Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Picture is Worth...

I was at local book sale on Saturday. It's a once a month deal run out of the local Masonic Hall basement and it's absolutely full of great stuff ranging from 10 cents to a dollar. My best buy? John Holt's How Children Fail and How Children Learn for a dollar each (*brag*). My lasting memory? A little boy that was there with his mom.

This little boy (about 5 or 6) picked out book from the pile of children's picture books and was fascinated with the cover. It had an angular submarine hovering over an underwater scene where two people in diving helmets stood walking along the bottom, long walking sticks in hand. The book was a condensed version of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. He showed it to his mom and she pointed out that that was the book they'd heard about at the library from one of the librarians but, that it wasn't the real book. As I was digging through the children's novels I found a copy of the real version and handed it to her. She was excited and asked her boy if he wanted it. He didn't really answer, he just kept looking at the picture book version.

I kept an ear out and listened as the mom kept asking him about the real version. He didn't give fart about the real version. He was wrapped up in that wonderful cover. I asked him what he liked about it, hoping the mom would clue in, and he talked about how strange the submarine looked being angular as opposed to curvy and wondered what those walking sticks might be for. The mom didn't catch on. It was a dumbed down picture book as far as she was concerned and not worth even considering.

Let me say that the mom was wonderful. She was attentive and considerate to her son and it was a pleasure to see them interact. It was just that she had a bit of book snobbery that prevented her from seeing the value in that 10 cent book. And let me also say that this irritated me because I was once guilty of the same thing. I too would have snubbed the picture book in favour of the real and authentic version, thinking it was something watered down or that it insulted my child's intelligence. Not so.

Just the cover of that little picture book was already prompting questions and wonder in that little boy. What if he'd taken it home and opened it up?

They left without the book and I'm still kicking myself for not simply buying the damn thing and giving it to the boy.

5 comments:

Doc said...

Yay, I can comment. I hate the word "twaddle". I really do. Any book that inspires a child to pick it up is a stepping stone to another book - be it a picture book (or "childrens" classic) or Captain Underpants. I have yet to see a book, any book, that was so poorly written that it ruined a child's chance to be literate.

Lizabeth said...

Right on! I totally agree that a book is a book, to a kid. Having said that, however, I have a personal vested interest in making sure our book collection suits me, since I am the one reading it. Which is not to say we don't have our share of books I'd rather never read again. I freely admit that I am a book snob, but it's because that's what I want to be reading, not because of what I consider to be "real" or "good enough" for my kids.

However, I believe I would have bought the book in question. We've gotten many a cheap book at a garage sale, because of just this sort of fascination.

Lorraine M. said...

Well I'm kicking myself about a book too, hugely so. Was at the Thrift Store and came across a newly priced bin of old books. We're talking Dickens, Jane Austen etc. I had so many in my hands, yet I put Jane Eyre back, thinking my grandmother had given me one. Got home and realized I didn't have it. Went back today and naturally it's gone. Sob sob... I could have cried. Stupid me for putting it back, came to see on abebooks that it would have sold for about $100 too in real life, versus the $.99 on the sticker. I hope it found a good home. But on the homeschooly front you'd be thrilled with my finds of early 1900s versions of Greek Wit, Aristotle's Politics and Ancient Greek Classics, Hamlet and more. The biggest find? A 1891 World's Fair Cook-book and Housekeepers' Companion, it is priceless in its beauty and in its contents. However, I really want Jane Eyre back... had it in my hands, three times no less while I hmmmd and hawed. Sigh...

Dawn said...

Lorraine - I have a missed book story you can't possibly beat. I think I'll blog about it tommorrow. I was 9 and it involves a trek through dark woods and an abandoned house...

Heather said...

Oh how imaginations are placed in a box - sadly so. Isn't that the world most live in though? The best hours spent of one's life are looking at pictures and creating your own stories in your mind to go with the pictures. The Mom really missed out with that opportunity, and all for 10 cents...