b Papa Dog's Blog: It Stinks!

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Thursday, June 16, 2005

It Stinks!

One valuable lesson I’ve learned in the last week is that buying books for myself and buying books for Baby Dog must of necessity involve two entirely different methodologies. The process whereby I buy books for myself goes something like this: I hear something about a book from around and about – sometimes from the Chronicle Book Review, sometimes from the New York Review of Books, sometimes from something somebody told me about in passing, sometimes from a dim memory of a book that I had really intended to finish when it was assigned to me in college. Sometimes, I even impulse-buy, letting myself get caught by an appealing jacket design or a familiar authorial name. Whichever avenue leads me to the book, what I do at the store is take a quick glance at the jacket to confirm that it is what I think it is, maybe a cursory flip past a page or two to see how dense the type is, and then I buy the thing. What I don’t do is stand there in the bookstore reading the book. I don’t test drive. When I finally get around to reading the book (often many months later), I like to be able dive straight into it with as few preconceptions as possible. I don’t want to feel as though I’ve already read it.

That’s been my modus operandi since Croesus started his first piggy bank (τράπεζαy χοίρων?*), and it works fine for me. Alas, I’ve learned the hard way that if I’m going to buy a book for my wee one, I’d do best to actually read the thing before paying money for it. That I Stink! book I mentioned a few posts back, well it – oh, what’s the kindest term? – blows. I bought it on the strength of an engaging cover and one funny page where the truck burps. I imagined the delight and hilarity with which Baby Dog would erupt when I got to that page. What I didn’t bargain on were all the pages that come before it. It’s written in a vernacular style that I just can’t bring off out loud. I’m one of the best story-readers you’re ever going to come across, mind. I have, modestly speaking, a deep, resonant voice, and I know how to use it well. I’m the best interpreter of my own work, and I do a killer O. Henry. More in Baby Dog’s ballpark, I’d challenge all comers to try and do Ten Little Ladybugs any better than me. But I know the limitations of my range, and this I Stink! thing veers far wide of them. Right from the first page, I’m lost. It’s supposed to be the truck talking, sometimes addressing the reader, sometimes in monologue, sometimes apparently conversing with the garbage men. Worse, he starts off talking about his own parts, and if there’s anything of less interest to me than automotive components, it slips my mind for the moment. “No A.C., not me. I’ve got doubles: steering wheels, gas pedals, brakes. I am totally DUAL OP.” I don’t even know what that shit means. It’s utter gibberish to me. How am I supposed to read it convincingly enough for a one-year-old? Last thing I expected was to open up a children’s book and not understand what it was talking about.

Well, as it happens, the first time I tried to read it to Baby Dog, stumbling manfully through the opaque verbiage, she didn’t have any more patience for it than I did. She grabbed the book, flipped through the pages, then tossed it aside in favour of her toy owl. It seems likely at this point that we’ll re-gift the book to some friend or other who has a small boy. Not to get all gender assumptive, but it really does seem more like a little boy’s book. It’s all about making gross noises and digging through filth. Mama Dog seems happy enough to see the book go. She was afraid it would teach Baby Dog to rummage through the kitchen garbage.
*According to Alta Vista, that’s Greek for “pig bank.” I added the “y” because it wouldn’t translate “piggy.”


Blogger Judy said...

Thanks for the heads-up review on that book - won't be getting that one any time soon!

1:04 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home