That was the year that was: Reading 2021

Reading, reading, reading …

I’ve learned enough not to make assumptions about what the future will hold, but if present indications are anything to go by, Mama and I are raising a daughter with a mighty high NQ (nerd quotient).

Baobao never goes to bed — even for a nap, back when she took them — without taking at least three books with her. And she usually puts herself to sleep by “reading” one or more of them (or a chapter or two if it’s a long book like Winnie the Pooh or The House at Pooh Corner, the former of which has been her favourite going on four months now.

So, if you think that reading is important (and I do), you’ll have to admit that Papa Zesser has done something right, because Baobao surely does love her books and stories.

Even toddlers feel nostalgic from time to time
On the last day of the year, Baobao wanted to revisit some old favourites …

Now of course, Baobao doesn’t understand the significance of December 31st; she can’t even count that high, come to think of yet.

Yet, as the pile above serves to show, she for some reason felt nostalgic yesterday morning (or so it seemed), as she one-by-one brought out not two or three, but a full ten of her one-time favourites, and made me read and/or sing each one of them to her.

(She followed those up with a couple of long Dr. Seuss classics, Horton Hatches the Egg and then Horton Hears a Who, which she is “reading” to herself — dramatic voices and all — behind my chair as I type these paragraphs.)

And — I realize I am starting to ramble — it gives me great pleasure that her copy of Horton Hears a Who is the one I had during my own childhood, and that she has not destroyed it. (It’s needed a few repairs since she started “reading” it, but for a child who is not yet two and a half, she is remarkably good to her books.)

Hurray! for the life of a bear ...
Baobao provides after-dinner entertainment, November 4, 2021.

As best I remember, 2021 started out as The Year of Boynton. From Happy Hippo, Angry Duck, to Barnyard Dance, all the way to The Belly Button Book, Boynton’s delightful and usually singable books were Baobao’s favourites, which Papa had to read (or sing) over and over and over (and over) again.

At some point, Boynton was dropped in favour of Doctor Seuss. The Cat In the Hat was an early favourite, which I had to read literally more than 100 times, to be followed by that book’s lesser sequel (The Cat In the Hat Comes Back), then on to some of my own favourites, including Horton Hears a Who and … Hatches the Egg and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. We also shared in discovering a “lost” Seuss book, The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories, which was given to us by a neighbour.

And after Seuss, came chapter books! Namely, the timeless genius of A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh and, more recently, The House at Pooh Corner. Baobao has memorized a number of these stories and can recite them with ever-increasing clarity!

There have also been a few books I’ve liked a lot less, and a couple (including one by Seuss — the harassment-justifying Green Eggs and Ham which I simply won’t read to her at all.

Censorship? I suppose so, in a sense, but I prefer to think of it as editorial judgment; I won’t stop her from reading it herself when she can read, but I ain’t gonna read it to her.

Anyway, all things considered, I am thrilled by the way she has taken to the written word and hope, hope, HOPE, that the love affair continues.

Who's king now, you filthy peasants!?!
“Who’s king now, you filthy peasants?” Baobao takes a (wrong) lesson from Dr. Seuss. Photo by Mama Raven, April 15, 2021.

And, since this is a new year, I hereby make a couple of pledges. First, that I will be a more consistent writer of letters to my daughter and, second, that I will write individual reviews of the following books.

  1. Barnyard Dance;
  2. Belly Button Book;
  3. But Not the Hippopotamus;
  4. Happy Hippo, Angry Duck;
  5. Horns To Toes and In Between;
  6. Opposites;
  7. The Going to Bed Book, all by Sandra Boynton;
  8. Mon Amour Pour Toujours, by Caroline Jane Church;
  9. The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories;
  10. The Cat In the Hat;
  11. The Cat In the Hat Comes Back;
  12. The Foot Book;
  13. Fox In Sox;
  14. Green Eggs and Ham;
  15. Hop On Pop;
  16. Horton Hatches the Egg;
  17. Horton Hears a Who;
  18. How the Grinch Stole Christmas;
  19. Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose;
  20. Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories, all by Dr. Seuss;
  21. Le bateau de Léo;
  22. Le camion-poubelle de Marcel, both by Emilie Beaumont in the very sexist P’tit Garçon series;
  23. When We Were Very Young;
  24. Now We Are Six;
  25. Winnie the Pooh; and
  26. The House at Pooh Corner, all by A.A. Milne, illustrated by the marvellous Ernest H. Shepperd; and
  27. Guess How Much I Love You, by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Anita Jeram.

No doubt I’ve missed a few, but I suppose that’s enough of a commitment for a Papa who hasn’t finished a letter for a few months. Meanwhile, here’s a brief reading by the toddler herself, a couple or three months back!

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