Thursday, June 12, 2008


A few weeks back, Helena's school-to-be had an open house to which all prospective students, as well as the community at large, were invited.

We'd visited the school previously, of course: information session, guided tour, Q&A. We visit the schoolyard regularly to play hopscotch. We've been to the gym to cast our votes. But this visit was decidedly more festive (read: chaotic free-for-all).

If I were the sort of mother who shopped around for a school, this is exactly the sort of school I might opt for. As fate would have it, I strongly support the principle of a public school system and that my child should attend whatever school lies in our district; lucky for us we moved into a condo just down the street from a school renowned for its literature program. (Fate also has it that my child may not be so literarily inclined, but that's something I'll cope with later...)

So there we were, in the gym, tables upon tables of books, used and new, to raise some funds for the school, and present for 2 book launches by local authors. We bought a handful of bookmarks and a copy of one of those freshly launched books.

I just think it's cool that this is the sort of school my daughter will be attending in a few more months.

The book we brought home that day was L'ombre de paon, by Lise Monette. I haven't entirely figured out the story — it took me half an hour to figure out how to pronounce "paon" in such a way that Helena finally knew what I was talking about and could teach me how to actually pronounce "paon" — but the illustrations are gorgeous. Something about the eyes of a peacock's tail transfixing, and threatening to wholly engulf, a little girl in a colourless dress.

Another recent addition to the child's library is The Alphabet From A to Y With Bonus Letter Z!, by Steve Martin and Roz Chast. (Listen to them talk about it here.) This was a review copy. Steve Martin is a wild and crazy guy, and I consider him to be a fine writer. Could he write an alphabet book? It's a bit weird, but yes.

I don't recommend this book to everyone, and whether it's appropriate I think is a matter of the child's disposition more so than of age.

Starting with the title. It took a few minutes for Helena to figure it out (as well as asking what exactly "bonus" means), but once she did she thought it was insanely funny. And she still thinks so.

It's appeal lies in the fact that it's unconventional. Most of it doesn't make much sense, but the pictures are busy (keeping pace with the 5-year-old mind and maybe a step ahead, as Helena discovers something new every time), and the words are interesting. It's more for playing than for reading.

The C page has cacti, chair, center, for which occasionally cranky mommy must explain how one little letter can possibly make so many sounds (of course that's a good thing). L has lowlife, demanding a different kind of explanation.

One of Helena's favourite elements is the endpapers, which features letters not found in English.

The more it goes, the more the bedtime story seems counterproductive — there's just too much to talk about.

No comments: