I don’t recall being read to very often as a young child. A couple books stand out in my mind, but most of them I remember hearing in school. It wasn’t until I had my own children that I really became aware of the vast array of children’s books out there. I came to realize that you can write the most ridiculous books and somehow they get published. I remember reading one book recently and recalling the scene in Elf when Buddy’s Dad, who works at a children’s book company, is talking with one of his employees. The dialogue is as follows:
Buddy’s Dad: A reprint? You know how much that’s gonna cost?
Employee: Two whole pages are missing. The story doesn’t make any sense.
Buddy’s Dad: What, you think some kid’s gonna notice two pages? I mean, they… all they do is look at pictures.
Well, maybe the kid won’t notice, but us parents do. I wish I could remember the book that I was reading. I seriously kept checking to see if pages were ripped out because the ending of the book made zero sense. Gru, from Despicable Me, said it best when it comes to these ‘less than optimal’ children’s books I am referring to, “This is literature? A two year old could have written this…Ah, I don’t like this book. This is going on forever.” I think we’ve all experienced these types of books. Thankfully, there are children’s books out there that are fully worth adding a book award badge to their cover. These are the books that I will gladly read to my children one hundred times over, not because my kids ask me to, but because I genuinely enjoy getting lost in the book.
The Spider and the Fly is one of those books that I can’t help but read in the best of my character voices because it deserves to be read with feeling. It’s based on the 1829 poem by Mary Howitt with delightfully eerie illustrations by Tony DiTerlizzi. It’s a darker book than you expect to read to a child, but it gets the message across. Don’t expect a happy ending, as situations between spiders and flies rarely end in such a manner. But expect the opportunity to teach the lesson from this tale, which is, “To idle, silly, flattering words I pray you ne’er give heed.” This is something I feel our children need to learn in today’s society.