It seems that for most of my life I’ve had my head in a book. So it pleases me endlessly that my kids love to read. My daughter, who’s two now, has recently come into her book-loving stage. She will bring me a book, usually when I’ve finally found a minute to sit and have a cup of coffee or a quick lunch, and announce: “WEAD IT ME! WEAD BOOKY ME!” When I attempt to tell her, “Sure, right after Mommy finishes her coffee” she will reply “WANT WAPPY (that’s “lap” in two-year-oldese)”. WANT WAPPY READ IT ME!” And then she jabs me with a corner of the book and tries to climb onto my lap until I give in, or more accurately, give up on being able to drink my coffee with any shred of enjoyment.
My boys are a little more understanding when I tell them that I will read them a book after I finish up whatever I’m doing. Thankfully. And if I start reading to one boy, usually the other one will sidle up and listen to whatever book we’re enjoying. It’s really nice.
Anyways, a few months ago, I received two books to review from Artscroll: Look What My Parents Give Me! and Imagine if…. Even though they’re now “old news” in our house, what with having been in the rotation for a few months already, my children will still bring them to me to read, and their eyes still light up at the parts they most enjoy. They really enjoy them. We just read them tonight during our bedtime routine.
Here are my general thoughts on the books:
I’ll start with Look What My Parents Give Me!
There’s a nice introduction by Rabbi Nosson Scherman, which gives over that there are three partners in every person: Hashem, a father, and a mother. Just like Hashem gives us everything we need, parents give children everything they need (well, that’s what they’re supposed to do, at least).
The point of this book is to remind children about all the things a parent does for them, to hopefully foster appreciation and help them do the mitzvah of Kibbud Av v’Eim (Honoring your father and mother). To quote the intro: “Even though we know about these things, we don’t aways think about them. But we should think about them.”
This book is definitely geared toward a Torah observant audience, as many of the examples are mitzvos like saying brachos before eating food, keeping kosher, listening to kiddish on Friday night, watching a mother light Shabbos candles, kissing a mezuzah, etc. It’s written in rhyme, and there are two examples on each page (with a couple pages showing just one example).
Things I liked:
- I liked and could relate to the vast majority of the examples. I appreciated ones like teaching children how to help their siblings, or to clean up toys when they are finished playing (YES!), to say “please” and “thank you,” and to come in the first time a parent calls. While there are a lot of mitzvah-specific examples, I was pleased with the amount of derech eretz (good behavior) examples used.
- My kids really liked the illustrations. They are colorful and clearly depict what the rhymes are describing. Whenever my daughter gets her hands on this book, she will sit for long stretches of time (long for her age) and babble about all the things she sees there. There’s a picture of a boy riding a bike, so she will repeatedly point and say that it’s her brother on his bike. Or a picture where it’s raining, and she will let us all know, many, many times, about the rain. WAINING! WAINING DERE!!!!!
- The overall message of the book really resonates with me. There are so many things we take for granted, that we don’t realize are benefitting us. So I’m happy to give this message over to my kids.
Things I liked less:
- Some of the rhymes were awkward, and some of the punctuation/capitalization choices didn’t make sense to me.
And now for Imagine If…
In the style of Dr. Seuss (ftr, I totally just wrote “Rabbi” Seuss. Hahaha, oops), this book explores in a very silly way the concept that Hashem made everything in the world just perfect. With very goofy examples of how things could have been different, like animals making the “wrong” noises or having two left feet instead of hands. Or, one of my kids’ favorites, if draidels were talking while walking down stairs. My kids giggle at all the silly examples of imagining how different things could be. The point, of course, is to appreciate that the world is perfect the way Hashem it, and the book does lay that out in plain language a couple of times.
I think this book could be accessible to non-Torah observant audiences (assuming they agree with the premise of the book, obviously). There are a couple references to religious Jewish things (like a lulav and dreidel, and using the word “Hashem”), but in general, the book is fairly open.
Things I liked:
- I like the approach of taking a large philosophical concept and making it silly, enabling children to absorb a deep concept in a fun, lighthearted way.
- The illustrations are really quite fun, though they don’t entire match up with the cover art. Not sure what that’s about, but inside the book, the pictures are crisp, colorful and whimsical. I also like that that the people in the illustrations don’t look like Yeshivish Orthodox Jews.
- The rhymes were well-written and fun to read.
Things I liked less:
- I’m not entirely comfortable with the derivative nature of the book. I think it could have been done just as well without channeling Dr. Seuss quite so overtly.
- Some of the punctuation choices weren’t ones I would have made.
~ ~ ~
So overall, I whole-heartedly recommend both of these books. As a disclaimer, I did receive free copies of the books, but I didn’t get any money for sharing my opinions. I will say that this is definitely one of my favorite aspects of blogging, though (except if I don’t like a book. That’s not as fun).
What are you reading with your kids these days?