My Best Thing


My just-barely-toddler child has very little interest in listening to a book read aloud. Books are for fine dining experiences, for displaying Olympic feats of strength, for occasionally practicing the fine art of speed page turning. His disinterest does not prevent me from attempting lure him into listening though. Sometimes he'll sit on my lap for a few pages before throwing an epic tantrum. Sometimes I just give up and read loudly while he runs around the room completely ignoring me (but fully prepared to have a meltdown should I dare step out of the room).

We've slowly been working through Jack Prelutsky's Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant, which we finished along with Eve Bunting's The Banshee.

Behold the Bold Umbrellaphant is a collection of quirky poems about inanimate object animals such as the above Clocktopus. The poems are clever and hilarious--of course!--and the illustrations by Carin Berger are equally striking and creative. I think my vocabulary increases every time I read something by Jack Prelutsky, and not just with Lewis Carroll-esque words.

I'll be honest: I checked out The Banshee purely because of the peacock feather on the cover. We still have a jar full of them on our mantle, leftovers from our wedding and matching its colors.

While Jack did not deign to read the book along with me, he did get into the, er, spirit of the story by running around me shrieking gleefully. The Banshee tells of a young boy who fears that a banshee might be crying outside his house. Acting bravely despite his fear, the boy takes his best thing as an offering in the hope that he might find the banshee and buy back the life of his loved one with the sacrifice of his treasure. The lovely illustrations by Emily Arnold McCully reminded me of how dark and terrifying our yard seemed at night when I was a kid. It was so easy to imagine all sorts of terrors lurking. I'm not sure if I'd have had the guts to go out there alone to meet a banshee or the heart to give up my best thing, but books give us a chance to be vicariously daring.
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