Popkids Book Report: What do you do with a Problem and Forever Young

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I recently found several gift cards that had been sitting around the house since the holidays.  They were for my kids and we had just kind of kept for getting they were there.  I decided on a whim to go the store and pick out a few new books for them, well mostly just our five year old, since out five month old is just into sucking his hands right now.  I got to the store. It was Barnes and Noble, and the first thing that stuck me in the children’s section was the lack of employees.  Long ago I worked in a huge Barnes and Noble.  In each department there was a person who was some sort of lead when it came to the books in that area.  We had an amazing children’s staff that knew everything about what was new, what was great, and was coming.  Now it seems as there were just employees in the store doing the basics of a job, shelving, general customer service, and working at the cash wrap (that’s cash register work for those of you who have never done retail).  It made me a bit sad to realize that there were no longer people who seemed to focus on one area but just sell books as a means of selling a product.  That’s not to say the people who work there didn’t love books, I mean why choose to work in a book store otherwise, but is seemed like the company was aware that having people specific to an area is a thing of the past.  That now you are on your own in anything other than an independent book store of a place where you write your own reviews with little yellow or orange stars on a screen.  So, I set about finding books in an area where I read a lot, but in reality, know very little about.

What do you do with a Problem?

I knew I wanted to find some books that would help in some sort of learning process and that my son would enjoy when he is alone.  Max is five and is just starting to learn to read so one of the things he really likes are very detailed pictures that can purse and explore, finding all the little details in them, and then casually examining any words on the page.  I came across the books of Kobi Yamada and Mae Besom.  The two I noticed on the shelf were What do you do With a Problem and What do you do with an Idea.  What really drew me to them were Besom’s amazing illustrations.  Each one is a small work of art telling a story that could be in any number of books, that you could look at and find a story to tell.  They remind me of Chris Van Allsburg’s work, particularly The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a book of Allsburg’s drawings with captions that encourage the reader to make up their own story.  The Illustrations by Besom help tell the story written by Yamada but the reality is the story is pure teaching tool.  I decided to go with What do you do with a problem which shows a little boy trudging through a strange and amazing land as he deals with his problem, here illustrated as a dark cloud that eventually becomes, something akin to sunshine.  I am not crazy about the text in the book, mostly because the illustrations are so fantastic, that I want to see them paired with actual story rather than, what is effectively, a lesson in problem solving.  However that is me, the adult, my son was totally interested in the book and found it’s lesson, I think, somewhat comforting.  It is an amazing book to flip through and comes with an easy and valuable lesson for anyone under eight or so.

Grown-ups:3.5 Stars (3.5 / 5)
Kids:5 Stars (5 / 5)

Forever Young

Because we live in such vexing times, when democracy seems to be threatened at its core, I decided that the next book would be something that could teach Max what it means to be young, have a voice, and how to use it.  So I grabbed Bob Dylan’s Forever Young, a book based on the Lyrics of his song by the same name.  I loved flipping through the book, with its illustrations, by Paul Rogers, set against the backdrop of the sixties, what seems like now a wholly more innocent time.  They reminded me of my youth and the things that I believed were important, and the way I thought, and was told, you were supposed to fight for change.  In addition, his lyrics, a poem set to remind us about the importance of experience and what it means to pass something on.  I had images of my son and I sitting down to read the book and him looking up at me afterwards to say something like, “Thank you Daddy.  I understand and I will be the voice for my generation.”  Instead he just said “yuck”and that he didn’t like the book.  It was a total failure, but, one I’ll keep suggesting until maybe, one day he gleans something from it’s lovely sentiment and is ready to walk into the world and make his own change.

Grown-ups:5 Stars (5 / 5)
Kids:3 Stars (3 / 5)
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