My kids love to read books. And it is a good thing since I usually have my head in a book as well. Hopefully this will keep us all out of trouble (doubtful). As they are still a bit too young to have their own kindles or iPads, I have a very expensive book habit to support. I know, I know, this is a high class problem to have.
This past week my oldest stayed home from daycare for two days in a row due to fever. It was a mystery illness with no other symptoms. She spent day one lounging around on the couch, but by day two I was ready to poke my eyes out if I had to sit through The Little Mermaid one more time. I dug out the nearly two-year old offer for a free library card we got when Giorgie was born, threw some clothes on Addy and headed out to the library.
After spending ten minutes securing our free pass to the wonderful world of Dutch books, we headed up to the children’s section. This sprawling oasis is just shy of equaling the Magic Kingdom in the eyes of my kids. There is a cafe for mom and dad, a foosball table, funky couches, every video game known to man, a play kitchen, colorful carpets and strange lighting. Basically it is about as close as you can come to an opium den for literary lovers.
At this point you are probably wondering how it is possible that the library is not my friend. Simple. All of the kids books are in Dutch. If you are like me and have enough Dutch vocabulary to navigate through a conversation with the electricity provider but not enough to recite poetry, this means that you have no hope of recognizing the revised names of children’s fairy tales. You are basically brought back down to the same level as your four year old. “This cover looks nice. It’s pink and has a princess on it.” When you miraculously manage to recognize a title, your enthusiasm knows no bounds. “The…princess…and the…pea! I KNOW THIS ONE! This one is great. We should get it right away, you will love it!” My child usually reacts to this by reshelving the item in question. Jackass.
So there we were shuffling through the fairy tales and selecting based on the quality of the cover. After several huge battles and temper tantrums (on my part), we finally settled on a few and headed home. Little did I know that one of them was a ticking time bomb.
If you have a child that is younger than 5, you are likely familiar with the Cliff Notes reading technique. This is where you completely ignore the words that are on the page and craft you own heavily edited version of the story. Dr. Suess is probably rolling in his grave over my butchering of the Cat in the Hat (It was a rainy day and then there was a bump and there was a cat at the door, etc etc). This capability is highly dependent on either strong previous knowledge of the story, the ability to quickly read said story upside down or highly detailed images. One of the books we selected, a lovely fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, did not meet any of these requirements.
The first night I stumbled through a very half-assed story based on the minimal illustrations all the while wondering what in the hell fairy tale it was. The second night (because, yes, you have to read the same damn story night after night after night after…you get the point) I attempted to translate the tiny Dutch text while telling the story (this required playing tug of war with a tired three and a half year old), but still mostly stuck to the tale from the previous night. By night three I was getting frustrated with my own ignorance so I forced Addy to let me look at the book right side up while we turned the pages. Three pages in I finally figured out what story it was…The Little Match Girl.
“Aha! I know this one.” Um, no, I didn’t know this one. What kind of psycho writes a children’s book about a poor girl that DIES and then illustrates it and positions it as a reasonable tale for the under fives? Furthermore, what kind of complete ass buys said book and puts it in the baby room at the library??? Why on earth would I want to tell a story to my child in which the main character freezes to death while fashionable ladies walk by her???
Tonight’s story time caught me flipping the bird to Hans “you’re an ass” Christian Andersen. In my version the lovely little match girl princess does not die. She just has a nice dream about visiting her castle in the clouds and seeing her grandma. And the next morning she wakes up and tells everyone about her dream. And if this ending sounds completely lame, you should try being creative after 12 solid hours of nonstop kid aggravation.