Saturday, March 25, 2017

In Praise of a Good List

I love book lists. You know, like 50 Novels Everyone Should Read Before They Die. How could I resist an offering like that? How many can I tick off, or at least boast some familiarity, and therefore feel validated in my life choices? Will I be reminded of a classic I now feel ready to tackle, or find a new suggestion so intriguing I’ll actually track it down and dive in? Besides, lists don’t take much time commitment, so the enjoyment-to-effort ratio is pretty high.

Sweetpea at two years old, perusing I Love You, Stinky Face

But lately I’ve had new reason to go trolling book lists, specifically for picture books. I need quality bedtime reading material for Sweetpea. Early intervention is essential to ensnare her in a web of fiction addiction develop a soul-nourishing love of art and literature. Sure we’ve got two shelves worth of picture books, just a few of my favorites, and we haven’t read all of them yet (some are still too old for her, and some we’ve tried but need to circle back around to later). But what about others that I love, that mustmustmust be part of her childhood, but that slip my mind the moment I walk into the library? Not to worry, just search Top 10/25/100 Best Picture Books, and we’ve got our next three library visits covered.

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The book dominated conversation for a week. Plus the song got stuck in our heads.

Plus, my internal picture book database has grown stale. It’s been years since I kept up with the field, and even longer since I worked at the bookstore. I realized I’d slipped out of the loop last year when Sweetpea came home from preschool raving about a new favorite: Pete the Cat. There was a song and everything. I’d never heard of it. It’s a whole series that everyone in kidworld knows, apparently, except me. What else have I been missing while comfortably relying on Blueberries for Sal and The Paperbag Princess?
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It's a classic for a reason. If you haven't read it recently, go check it out.  

We’ve discovered a few recent must-reads through conversations with friends or chance encounters at the library—things like Fancy Nancy and Pinkalicious (I know, they’re not that new—now you see how dire the situation is). But it was a good old list that helped us find Ladybug Girl. And the Best Books of 2016 that helped us get super current with The Airport Book, The Bear and the Piano, The Artist and Me, Have You Seen Elephant, Leave Me Alone!, and My Favorite Pets. Some we’ve gone meh, some we liked ok, some we loved.

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A superhero we can all relate to.

Which brings up a contrary point—lists are not magic, just one person’s opinion (or a bunch of people, if it’s an opinion poll or a best seller list). But someone read books and thought about them enough to pick some over others. Or maybe didn’t read all the books, just copied someone else’s list. Slacker! But at some point someone read these books, which is more than I’ve done. And I probably won’t agree with all their choices. Maybe on my own I’ll find a gem that never made the list. But it’s like my shopping list—a way to focus on some things and bracket out others so I can get started in a somewhat systematic way. (In contrast to my to-do list, which has only a tenuous connection to my actual life, or any objective reality.)

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We loved the subplots woven through the illustrations.
So lists aren't perfect. Who is? They're still useful and in some vague way satisfying. Long live lists!

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