Archived Story

Baby books on classic literature are a joy

Published 7:00am Sunday, August 11, 2013

Column: Pass the Hot Dish, by Alexandra Kloster

My best friend, Christina, knows when I need a good scratch. Last weekend two beautifully illustrated copies of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Pride and Prejudice” showed up for my twins, Gertie and Clara. They aren’t just any highfalutin prints of the classics either. The short, chubby publishing arm Baby Lit created these intellectual nuggets just for toddlers.

Friends, I am a dream come true to a company like Baby Lit. I am the easiest mark at the fair. Not 10 minutes after the books arrived, I jumped online and ordered every Baby Lit product I could find. I also delved into some Cozy Classics and a box set of Mini Masters (fine paintings for kids who couldn’t care less).

A hundred dollars later I felt much better about myself because, after all, these books are ego scratchers. When I’m feeling like less of a rock star mother than all the other rock star mothers around me, when I’m a little too happy that the girls napped long enough for me to catch up on a week of my soaps, when my ego needs a good scratch I can say, “Why, yes, my twins do walk into walls occasionally but only because they’re so engrossed in Tolstoy.”

Yes, there is a toddler version of “War and Peace” out there, and “Anna Karenina” is in the pipeline. And, yes, I’ve pre-ordered it.

After I slid off my high brows and landed back on earth, I started to wonder how you tell a tragic tale like “Romeo and Juliet” to children who still think they’re going to live forever in one big toy chest. Would I find “A” is for “A curse on both your houses! “H” is for “Happy dagger”? No. Baby Lit is heavy on the baby and light on the lit. They could never be accused of taking dramatic license, not with so many dramatic felonies to choose from.

These books are simply allusions to your high school reading list with lots of pretty pictures that teach children how to count, and they look great on a bookshelf, so great you’ll walk a little taller as you drag yourself and your kids to bed at night. Maybe no one bathed today, but darn it, we read Jane Austen … sort of.

Keeping company with Baby Lit in the ego-scratching department are the ubiquitous Baby Einstein DVDs. There is nothing E=mc2 about them. The Baby Einstein theory proves that there is a certain combination of music and imagery that will throw your baby into a trance while you throw in a load of laundry, change your Facebook status or write a newspaper column.

I know invoking the name Albert Einstein sells millions, but if Baby Einstein simply called itself what it is, baby hypnosis, they’d move billions of those smiling hand puppets that seem to sway back and forth chanting, “You’re becoming very well behaved. At the count of three you will be angelic for the next half hour.”

Even parents who don’t allow their children to watch television would buy them just to let their kids hold the box in hope that by some hocus-pocus osmosis baby hypnosis would take hold long enough for them to go to the bathroom in peace.

Sometimes I feel like an idiot for being such a sucker to marketing. I know these companies are only appealing to my desire to believe I have future Notre Dame scholars crawling around my kitchen eating food off the floor. The truth is the girls don’t care if they’re looking at a picture of “Hamlet” or “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” They simply like books and that’s good enough. The music on the Baby Einstein DVDs is beautiful and the images are sweet. The girls enjoy them and that’s good enough.

Raising kids is a humbling experience, and all too often it feels like we’re on the wrong side of right. In our daily efforts to affirm our children’s worthiness and establish their well-being, we need to take a minute to do the same thing for ourselves. A little harmless ego scratching isn’t a bad thing. It’s good for the soul, and it keeps us from wandering around all day feeling like one big itch.

 

Woodbury resident Alexandra Kloster appears each Sunday. She may be reached at alikloster@yahoo.com, and her blog is at alexandrakloster.com.