In an effort to get some blog posts going, I'm starting a series on my random literary opinions. I've got 3 literary opinions lined up (today's, one on Harry Potter characters, and one about school stories); hopefully I'll come up with 2 more to make it a decent-length series. It may go without saying that these are opinions about children's books, but now I've said it, so there should be no confusion. The hope is to write one a week, but it'll be a victory if that actually gets done.
Now on to today's topic...
I'm going to assume that most readers have at least heard of Pat the Bunny, by Dorothy Kunhardt. Here's what it looks like:
This is a classic kids' book (originally published in 1940) and it's the ancestor of today's board books. It's interactive, with a soft bunny, nice-smelling flowers, a peek-a-boo page, a mirror, and other activities on each page. The activities are perfect for older babies/younger toddlers--my older girl (M.) can do everything except read the little book that makes up one of the activities, but for that, she turns the pages, just like she does in real books. She especially loves to say "bye bye" at the end. My three year old son still likes the book, too. Most importantly, M. has not yet destroyed the book. This is saying something, as she is right in the "destroy everything" phase of wanting to be independent but not quite getting the hang of it, and she's a little rougher in this stage than N. was. The book is not as sturdy as today's board books, but it's sturdy enough to stand up to a one-and-a-half year old. This is pretty important.
Moving on to Pat the Cat. This one was made by Kunhardt's daughter, and it first came out in 1984.
I have to say that it was a nice idea, and some parts of it are downright nifty. My favorite (and N.'s) is a sequence activity over 2 pages. First, you get money (pretend of course) out of the ATM (which I didn't realize existed in 1984--so I did learn something!), then you put it in Daddy's wallet on the next page. The two pages are designed so that, by putting the money in Daddy's wallet, it's positioned back in the ATM for the next read-through. This is pretty clever (says the girl who never ever ever solves the mystery before the story detective). However, there are some serious problems with Pat the Cat:
The activities vary in difficulty, and some of them are too difficult even for a 3 year old. Most notably among these is the squeaky toy at the end--I even have trouble getting it to squeak (you have to push it just the right way), and none of the kids (well, the 3 month old hasn't tried yet) can do it. This wouldn't be quite such an issue if it wasn't following in the footsteps of a book specifically aimed at babies.
Not all of the activities are "real." This may not be quite fair--the flowers in Pat the Bunny aren't real, either, but there is a real smell. What I mean by real is that you actually manipulate something--you really smell or touch or see what you are doing. Pat the Cat has one where you just pretend to write (with a paper pencil--no marks can be made), and I'm guessing the smell activity (since it's scratch and sniff) is going to run out eventually, too.
As you probably guessed, my biggest problem is with durability. This was a baby gift for little L. and, sadly, M. has already ripped one of the pages to pieces (I hope to fix it with book tape--I'm getting quite a pile of "books to fix"--but she's had access to this one for a much shorter time than Pat the Bunny). She's also almost lost the pretend money several times. Additionally, the hard-t0-squeak squeaky bear at the back bends the back cover when it finally does squeak.
Overall, while I don't hit 30 until early next year, I have to summon my inner geezer for these two books: they just don't make them like they used to! If you are looking for a fun interactive book for babies, go with the original Pat the Bunny. I'd say browse the others in the bookstore, but they tend to come shrink wrapped, so you'll have to find a friend who's kids have already ripped them! (You are welcome to come read mine, as long as you don't lose the fake money.)
I should mention that there are, of course, a whole host of good books for babies these days, in the form of board books or cloth books, but most of them aren't designed to be interactive (at least beyond the chewing on books that is necessary to the baby-book experience).
That's all for this week's literary opinion (my, isn't this high-brow)! We'll see if I make it back next week!