Posted by: jeannineatkins | June 2, 2010

Green Books for Babies and Those Who Love Them

I recently mentioned rereading Mary Poppins, finding my favorite chapter was the one in which the two babies talk with birds. All infants, we’re told, understand the language of animals until their baby teeth fall out.

Maybe we don’t quite believe this, but we encourage children to believe they’re animals at least for the short times that they spend with books. When we read them The Hungry, Hungry Caterpillar, children might not only wiggle their fingers through the holes in the pages, but imagine themselves nibbling or crawling across a leaf. When we read Peter Rabbit, many children imagine hopping among cabbages and making sure their tails don’t get caught in a fence. When we read The Wind and the Willows, it’s easy transitioning to moles and toads.

Babies and toddlers crawl, and even slightly older children spend more time than grownups close to the ground. They remind us about the beauty of the earth they live so close to. That clover they’re tempted to put in their mouths. Those ants that annoy us in the kitchen are more interesting at the edge of a sandbox. How do they move all those legs in synch?

There seem to be endless books about animals, and most are really books about children. Maybe there’s not as many differences between baby humans and baby ducks or baby bears as we grownups usually think. Maybe it’s not so preposterous to think that babies and birds can hold conversations. At the very least, maybe children are here to remind us about how we’re connected. Maybe we can’t understand the language of birds, or bunnies, but we can listen.

When we snuggle up to read, children enjoy not only the pleasures of story, but of the safety we promise with them in our arms. And reading books about animals and the good green world we promise them a larger safety, too. As they remind us to pay attention.

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Responses

  1. I love the idea of babies talking to birds, just like I love the idea that toys come to life when we aren’t looking. In a cute Toy Story kind of way, not a creepy Chuckie way. Babies (animal and human) make me smile; I think it’s the combination of cuteness and innocence.

  2. I love the idea of babies talking to birds, just like I love the idea that toys come to life when we aren’t looking. In a cute Toy Story kind of way, not a creepy Chuckie way. Babies (animal and human) make me smile; I think it’s the combination of cuteness and innocence.

  3. As usual
    You are right on the money and have expressed it beautifully.
    When we lived in Spain 40 some years ago, I used to read our son, Jack, The Wind In The Willows, and Bob used to sit at the bottom of the stairs and listen unknown to me. He never got read to…
    My mother read to us every night until the year of horror when we had to read the Bible and Pilgrims Progress aloud to her. Old New England custom…

  4. As usual

    You are right on the money and have expressed it beautifully.
    When we lived in Spain 40 some years ago, I used to read our son, Jack, The Wind In The Willows, and Bob used to sit at the bottom of the stairs and listen unknown to me. He never got read to…
    My mother read to us every night until the year of horror when we had to read the Bible and Pilgrims Progress aloud to her. Old New England custom…

  5. Oh, absolutely re the toys. Apparently Milne not only was inspired by his son’s toy bear, but used to haunt the toy dept. of Harrods for ideas, if not talkative toys.
    I found a new coffee shop where parents seem to like to take their babies. Caffeine and cuteness: win-win!

  6. Oh, absolutely re the toys. Apparently Milne not only was inspired by his son’s toy bear, but used to haunt the toy dept. of Harrods for ideas, if not talkative toys.

    I found a new coffee shop where parents seem to like to take their babies. Caffeine and cuteness: win-win!

  7. Re: As usual
    That’s a lovely picture of the listeners to Wind in the Willows, which I think is at least if not more appreciated by grown ups.
    And sorry about the year of horror. I’ll take my Pilgrim’s Progress through the Little Women lens.

  8. Re: As usual

    That’s a lovely picture of the listeners to Wind in the Willows, which I think is at least if not more appreciated by grown ups.

    And sorry about the year of horror. I’ll take my Pilgrim’s Progress through the Little Women lens.

  9. Great post! I can so see babies and small children talking to animals, and understanding them. =)

  10. Great post! I can so see babies and small children talking to animals, and understanding them. =)

  11. Thank you!

  12. Thank you!

  13. Adorable post. Love that real-life Peter picture!

  14. Adorable post. Love that real-life Peter picture!

  15. early books
    My son loved “Sam Who Never Forgets” and “Good Night Gorilla.” Yes — both animal books. “Sam Who Never Forgets” has a lovely rhythm both in language and in plot. “Good Night Gorilla,” we just enjoyed making up words to go with the illustrations.

  16. early books

    My son loved “Sam Who Never Forgets” and “Good Night Gorilla.” Yes — both animal books. “Sam Who Never Forgets” has a lovely rhythm both in language and in plot. “Good Night Gorilla,” we just enjoyed making up words to go with the illustrations.

  17. Re: early books
    thanks for the comment — and gorilla invocation!

  18. Re: early books

    thanks for the comment — and gorilla invocation!


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