This is theme week at Genreality, and we’re supposed to be talking about our reading habits.
I currently do not have a reading habit. Starting when my baby was born, seventeen months ago, I can count the number of new novels I’ve read on fingers and toes. Now I’m mostly counting piggies.
For the first few months of my baby’s life, I read primarily books on baby care. Baby sleep books, baby health books, baby supply books, baby development books. When it came to fiction, it was all about re-reading my old “comfort” novels — my favorite books that I’d wrap around me like a blanket to keep me warm during 2 a.m. feedings. I also had friends vetting my reading material, since I knew that reading anything but the most heartwarming, escapist material was only going to exacerbate those baby blues.
(An example: Mockingjay was published around the time my baby was born. My friends told me to steer clear. I ended up reading it the following year.)
In fact, I read very few new voices, which is probably a drawback given the explosion of debut novelists in my genre in the last year. You have no idea how many new releases from 2010 are still sitting, unread, on my bookshelf.
These days, the majority of books I read are printed on cardboard and have fuzzy inserts and fold down flaps. Having said that, however, I find I’m learning a lot from the books my baby loves. When you have only 50 words to tell a story in a picture book, each one better do a phenomenal job. I can recite to you most of the Sandra Boynton oeuvre. She’s a flipping genius, and I’d put Moo, Baa, La La La up there as one of the great works of English literature. I haven’t had so much in depth discussion about minute word choice in literature since my college days.
(Example debate with my husband: “in Dear Zoo, they say the snake is ‘too scary.’ I don’t approve of teaching our daughter that snakes are scary. They should have put ‘slithery’ or something. Discuss.”)
You want pathos? Try Boynton’s But Not the Hippopotamus. Adventure? Harry the Dirty Dog. Coming of Age? The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Love? I Love You, Through and Through. Horror?
I defy you to find a scarier moment than Goodnight Moon‘s bizarre insertion of a blank page accompanied by “Goodnight, nobody.” It gives me chills EVERY SINGLE TIME I READ IT. Who, or what, is this invisible “nobody” who has somehow sneaked into the poor baby bunny’s room under the watchful eye of the old lady rabbit? “Nobody” was decidedly NOT THERE during the earlier cataloging of all the actual things in the baby’s room.
“Um, goodnight, terrifying invisible bogey man. Oh, and goodnight, moon and mush and mittens, too.”
(Goodnight Nobody is TOTALLY the title of my first horror novel, btw.)
Also, do not get me started on The Runaway Bunny‘s mother’s stalker tendencies. Between his mother’s shapeshifting helicopter-parent ways and the mysterious “nobody” who haunts his bedroom, that poor bunny is really going to need bunny therapy one day.
After a few months of our dinner conversations revolving around the proper pronunciation of the sound lighting makes in Mr Brown Can Moo, Can You?, my husband rebelled and bought an omnibus of George R. R. Martin’s epic fantasy series. He just caught up to everyone else today. I read two new books this month.
And the baby has memorized Hand Hand Fingers Thumb. She likes “reading” it to herself now, complete with hand motions. One day, she’ll be able to read for real, and maybe we’ll have family reading nights. Hey, a girl can dream, and a family of happy bookworms is a fantasy come true.