31 books are here to stay, 6 are about to go.

So D has been down with the gastric flu for the past two days, which means all I need to do is hug him and lie down beside him while KrA sees to it that all our needs are met. The child is such a delight even during a bout of illness it makes me incredibly ashamed I am not even half the person he is when it comes to tolerance of pain.

When D falls ill, I give up my freelance editing jobs and instead take the lying-in-bed-next-to-D time to catch up on the blog and ruminations and such. D still has 13 books waiting to be picked up from the library, so to pave the way for the new arrivals, I decided to ask him to choose a few to return to the library. He chose six. One of them is Infinity and Me, which found its way back into our home a couple of weeks ago. Turns out D is not a sucker for nostalgia. He read it a couple of times this time but it’s clear that he has moved on from the story and has found new favourites to indulge in.

Another book that is headed back to the library soon is The North Star by Peter H. Reynolds. The title of this book is the meaning of D’s name! It is an Alice-In-Wonderland-ish story for little ones. It is the tale of a little boy who is led on a journey by a rabbit, a cat, a bird, a frog, and a star. After only a couple of readings, D decided he didn’t want to read it anymore. “The bird flew away,” was his reason. What bird?! I remember I had to go back and read the story when he was asleep to figure out what D was talking about, so tired and un-present I had been that day while I was reading the story to my child. So it turns out that the child encounters a bird when he is lost, and the bird asks him a bunch of questions such as “You must have some idea of where you’re going, yes?” (which, in my opinion is the last thing a lost person needs to hear!), and as if this wasn’t folly enough, the bird says something about “signs” and when the child inquires further, it just flies away! Although where the bird disappears, a star appears. And so does another. And yet another …

Harry and Walter, written by Kathy Stinson (author of A Pocket Can Have A Treasure in It) and illustrated by Qin Leng, is another story that is heading back to the library. It is about a child named Harry and his elderly neighbour Walter who are inseparable friends. And then Harry’s parents put up their house for sale and move to another neighbourhood, and Harry is heartbroken. Everything that he used to enjoy with Walter - riding the tractor, playing croquet, eating tomatoes, raking leaves, making paper birds - fail to give him joy when he does them alone. Harry has a vegetable garden of his own in the backyard of his new house but his tomatoes don’t taste as good as Walter’s. D, whose sentences/questions comprise a lot of ‘Why’s and ‘because’s these days, used to ask me if the tomatoes had gone bad. And I fumbled with some explanation about how Harry was so sad and missed Walter so much that he didn’t enjoy the tomatoes anymore … And D responded by saying, “Mummum will never give me bad food.” Thank you for the vote of trust and confidence, kiddo! The story ends on a happy note though with Walter moving into an apartment in Harry’s new neighbourhood a couple of years later and the two rekindle their friendship.

Cock-a-doodle-doo, Creak, Pop-pop, Moo by Jim Aylesworth (why is the name so familiar?!) and Brad Sneed is a description of a day on the farm. The rooster crows, and all the children (three boys and three girls) wake up, and have breakfast, and go off to milk the cows and feed the hens, and undertake other work on the farm until it is lunchtime, when they all gather around a big table - the family of nine, including their grandmother - after which there is more work to tend to on the farm until dusk falls and they call come back home where grandmother knits, her needles clacking to the rhythm of the grandfather clock, until it is time for everyone to head up the creaking stairs and fall asleep to goodnight kisses and the owl’s hoot. I don’t think D could relate to this story although I was quite fascinated to see a hand pump in use in the kitchen sink. It was not unlike the hand pump that was outside my grandparents’ long-ago apartment in a long-ago Madras … neither that hand pump nor that apartment nor my grandma exist anymore.

The Mitten, retold by Jim Aylesworth (now I get why the name is so familiar!) and illustrated by Barbara McClintock, is a cute story about how a mitten forgotten in the snow by a child quickly becomes a snug sleep suit for a squirrel, who is joined by a rabbit, then a fox, then a bear, and finally a mouse who squeezes in only for the mitten to burst into pieces a moment later.

And finally, Over and Under The Snow by Kate Messner and Christopher Silas Neal (again, a familiar name!) is the last of the sextet ready to head back to the library. I quite like this book and am sad D wants to return it, but hey he was given a choice and he has made up his mind, and I must respect that. It is a lovely description of a child and her father skiing through the woods, over all the creatures ensconced underground for the winter. Did you know that the male and worker bees die in the fall? And that only fertilised queen bees hibernate through winter, and emerge in spring to nest and spawn a new colony? Nature is endlessly fascinating. And who better than D to serve as a daily reminder of that fact to me?