I’ve been working on what my supervisor and I agree is probably the dullest, dreariest section of my dissertation, but one which I have to push through. (That’s what’s been taking me away from here, mostly.) It’s meticulous work. Delicate to perform, dull to read. Believe me, you’d rather I do it than do it yourself. It’s the neurosurgery of the academic world: Tedious, precise, and deadly if you get it wrong. (Well, no. Not really. That may be the anxiety talking.) But I am a little tired and may be less than totally articulate today.
That’s why I decided I wanted something light, happy, a little soppy, and a little frivolous to take my mind off of things. One Little Two Little Three Little Children by Kelly DiPucchio (whom we met already from Gaston) and Mary Lundquist, fits the bill.
This was a discovery from my wonderful Children’s Book Shop in Brookline. Remember that place? I may have mentioned it a few times. Well, it’s so good that when my husband and I decided we were owed a date before he begins his new job, I suggested we go to the Children’s Book Shop, and because my husband is a respectful and lovely man who understands what makes his wife happy, he said he thought that was a wonderful idea. (We also went to a movie, don’t worry: Love and Friendship— it’s excellent, and you should definitely go.) While we were there, my husband picked this up and flipped through it: “This is a bit too lovey for me,” he said, “but I think you’ll like it.”
He knows me well, dear reader. I do like it, and I think you will, too. Here’s why.
Kelly DiPucchio and Mary Lundquist totally revolutionize an old, rather, well… um… we just don’t do that sort of thing anymore song (you can search “Ten Little Indians” if you want, but I’m not doing any links for it because it makes me feel squirmy and uncomfortable). They do it so thoroughly that in the new version nothing is left of the old but the chanting rhythm of “One little, Two little, Three little…”
Nothing? Well, no, not nothing. What they do is take the bouncy, wonderful rhythm from an old song and use it as the vehicle for a strong, loving story. The combination results in a bounce-on-your-knee read with your child which also has the benefit of introducing your child to, well, everything in the world.
OK, maybe not everything. Your child won’t learn quantum mechanics from this book. But your child will see everything they’re likely to meet out on the playground: children crying, children smiling, parents of all genders and all colours, children who are cheerful and children who are shy. And they’re going to hear sounds and voices which are both familiar and secure as you go through the book. It’s both broadening and comforting at the same time: in short, it’s a wonderful way to absorb a diverse world in a quiet, gentle way. (I admit: I love the idea of taking a basically racist old song and revamping it into a message of acceptance and diversity.)
Let’s take a look at a spread from this book:
First of all, at a glance you see different ages of children, different colours, different genders. But I want to point out something else: you also see different moods. As the mother of a girl who can be pretty shy sometimes, I have to say that I’m glad to finally see shyness represented in a book. I’m not saying that the shy are a minority who are discriminated against, or anything like that– I’m just saying that I think cheerfulness is the baseline of what we expect from children, and that’s what we tend to see in picture books. Seeing crying, shy children is something of a relief, honestly.
The words, though, are the real reason I chose this page for you: “Loved little, hugged little, snugged little children. Cry little, shy little, my little children.”
Isn’t it perfect? It’s a shame my daughter’s in bed right now because typing that out made me want to grab her up and give her a cuddle. Also, I tend to pine for my daughter at around 9:30 or 10 pm, after she’s been in bed just long enough so that I have a chance to forget the day’s trials and tribulations. But that’s where this book came in for me: trials and tribulations.
You see, the Changeling and I were having some trials and tribulations. Perhaps they involved putting on clothes. So often they do seem to involve putting on clothes. (Why am I so unreasonable as to wish to clothe my child? It’s strange, isn’t it?) I took a deep breath. I picked up this book and said, “Hey, I bought you a new book!” The tears stopped. New book? Oh! We sat on the couch and arrived at this page pretty quickly. Soon we were giggling and cuddling. (And ready to put on clothes. Thank God.) Look, I’m not saying it’s magical or that it’s going to solve all your parenting problems, but I am saying it helped me out when things were pretty stormy at Château Changeling.
But let’s sum up. I feel that I’ve perhaps been somewhat scattered today, and I don’t want to lose the thread of what makes this book special. It’s a beautiful book, thanks to Mary Lundquist’s gentle and warm pencil and watercolour illustrations, but what really marks it out is the diversity which comes through both the text and illustration: that warm message of absolute acceptance. The text represents all children as worth loving, and all parents as capable of loving. The images show all families as being in the business of parenting and growing up together. Like Mary Lundquist’s art, it all comes through with gentleness and warmth, and that very gentleness makes it comforting to read.
If you’re lucky enough to have a child who likes sitting on laps, please do yourself a favour and find a copy of this book. Then go bounce-bounce-bounce… “One little, Two little, Three little chil-dren!” Cuddle and giggle and let your child find the interesting bits of the pictures. And enjoy!