Like every book-loving family without millions of dollars in spare cash, we are a family of library enthusiasts. In fact, we have close to two hundred items checked out from the library right now. No, I’m not exaggerating. The limit at our library is one hundred items, which is why I had to get my kids their own cards.
But yesterday, we went to the bookstore. We had formal photos taken of the kids earlier in the afternoon. To reward their cooperation, we told them that they could each choose a book from the bookstore. As a parent who loves reading and writing books, taking kids to the bookstore to buy books is a great treat for me too. But it is also fraught with peril. Will they make good choices? Or will we end up with a(nother) Ninjago book? Should the adults get veto power?
The three-year-old was our biggest challenge. Could we steer her around the Hello Kitty and Dora “books,” and the stuffed animals, and the craft kits? Yes! We did! She picked out Pete the Cat and His Magic Sunglasses. Success! Except that we realized after we left the store that she had actually shoplifted a tiny copy of Charlie Brown. Her brother helpfully brought it back into the store.
The five-year-old originally seized on If You Give a Dog a Donut. Then he decided he wanted a book he hadn’t read before and chose The Day the Crayons Quit. I hadn’t read that one before, either. I’ve now read it out loud several times, and it was an excellent choice. Although there are a lot of words. Not a good book to read right before the school bus comes. Try telling that to a five-year-old.
My seven-year-old quickly seized on one of the National Geographic Weird But True books. We already have a bunch of them at home, but he double checked, and this one had all new weird facts. Another good choice. Who knew that there are fish scales in some brands of lipstick?
Then there was the nine-year-old. He first picked out a new Gordon Korman book. He and I both adore Gordon Korman. But then he switched to a nonfiction book about the Baltimore Ravens. His reasoning: “I can get the Gordon Korman book from the library, but they won’t have this one at the library.” This sounded…reasonable. But I was still surprised, since his favorite team is actually the Detroit Lions (nobody knows why…we have absolutely no family connection to Detroit). This led to the following conversation:
Me: Why do you want a book about the Ravens?
Him: I’m a Ravens fan. I have a Ravens toaster, you know.
Yes. I do know. The Ravens toaster was a very expensive purchase my son made with his own saved-up money, used enthusiastically for a week, and then tried to sell to his brother. That didn’t work, so the toaster is still available if anyone would like it. A piece of toast with a big burned-on letter B is really a great way to start the day. Or so I hear. I’m actually the only member of my family who refused to eat one.
Final score: four good choices. Zero Dora. Zero Ninjago. Gehl Family versus Bookstore: Gehl family triumphs!
About Laura Gehl
Laura Gehl is the author of ONE BIG PAIR OF UNDERWEAR, a Charlotte Zolotow Highly Commended Title and Booklist Books for Youth Editors’ Choice; HARE AND TORTOISE RACE ACROSS ISRAEL, AND THEN ANOTHER SHEEP TURNED UP, and KOALA CHALLAH (all PJ Library selections); and the PEEP AND EGG series (Children's Choice Book Award Finalist; Parents' Choice Recommendation). Upcoming releases include I GOT A CHICKEN FOR MY BIRTHDAY (Carolrhoda/Lerner) and MY PILLOW KEEPS MOVING (Viking/Penguin Random House). A former science and reading teacher, she also writes about science for children and adults. Laura lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland with her husband and four children.