Boys like Girls

I always thought “Madeline” was a little girl’s book.

I never read it as a child myself , but I suppose since it’s a book about a girl, I never thought about getting it for Nate.

Until I saw it in the library. That beautiful, large format size that has to be turned on its side to fit in the children’s library shelf. The lovely drawing on the cover. “What the heck,” I thought. “I’ll take it home and read it. Maybe Nate will like it.”

Um, love is more like it. It’s much  more popular around here than the other books we brought home from the library (including a new Richard Scarry book with pigs on the front. Richard Scarry being the author of Nate’s #1 favorite book of all time “The Best Word Book Ever.”)

And why not? “Madeline” is enchanting — and I don’t mean that in a Disney way. How wonderful to be an adult reading a children’s book and find yourself smiling, laughing, and practically crying — all in less than 45 pages.

It absolutely doesn’t pander to children. There’s emergency illness! And a stay in the hospital! And a snow scene with a wounded soldier that evokes more emotion than some entire movies I’ve seen.

Not to mention the poetic verse. “And soon after Dr. Cohn/came, he rushed out to the phone.” Nothing like a little poetry in “Madeline” to make reading one of the more sing-songy books feel trite and infantile. And I know we’re talking about kids’ books, but my point is that we should give children more credit! They can handle — even love — sophisticated language, grown-up looking art, and complicated subject matter. And, God, don’t you get tired of some of these children’s books? As an adult? They’re oversimplified, understimulating, and boring for all involved. “Madeline” was published in 1939. Where are the books like this being published now?

Here’s a page that both Nate and I particularly enjoy:

“Madeline soon ate and drank./On her bed there was a crank./And a crack in the ceiling had the habit/of sometimes looking like a rabbit.”

I know this book is a classic and I’m just late getting to it, but it makes me wonder what other “girl” books are out there that Nate (and I) would love. I hope I have the sense to pick them up when I see them!

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Filed under kids' books, The Little Bookshelf

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