Monday, August 3, 2015

Richard Scarry's Best Book of What?

I have to say a word of thanks to my dear friend Francine, the Jewish mother I never had, for giving James Richard Scarry's Best Word Book Ever. I now get to read a gazillion words a night, from bulldozer to apple tree and everything in-between. Francine is probably cackling maniacally to herself as I write this, aware that she has passed on a warm, fuzzy tradition, as she's been stuck in my shoes during her own time as a parent of small children. How many times can we read all of the words on the "Work Machines" page, and how many pages can we get through in a night?

Last night, we got to the page about a family of cats who bring home a new kitten. There's a crib, a grandmother, a bottle, highchair...lots of stuff. I wonder where the midwife and doula are? Oh, right. It was the seventies.

Anyway, there are blanks on that particular page for a name, with instructions for the child reading the book to name the new kitten. Personally, I can't imagine giving that kind of responsibility to a four-year-old; he named our angelfish Watermelon. Wait, that actually makes him trendy - wealthy celebrities are totally into fruit names. Maybe Richard Scarry was onto something - get my kid to name your baby and you, too, can be famous!

Regardless of my feelings about names, this was James' book. I asked him what he'd like the kitten's name to be. He smiled at me and said, "It could be named Violet!"

"Yes, it could be Violet! That's a great idea. You know, it's your book - the baby could also be named James," I said.

"Nope, that baby has a vagina, not a penis," he said confidently.

I looked down at the page. "I'm totally cool with that, James, but how can you tell? I mean, the kitten is wearing a diaper."

He let out the grunt he uses when he's most exasperated. "Ugh, Mom, I know that! Of course she has a diaper on! Otherwise she might poop on the floor! But I know she has a vagina! She doesn't have a penis. The diaper doesn't matter. It's Violet! Not James! James would have a penis, Mom!"

I stared at him, slightly taken aback by his rather impassioned certainty. "Well, goodness, James, I just can't tell from looking at the book."

He rolled his eyes at me. (wonder where he got that from? not me, no way no how...) "Mom, this is a kid's book. I'm a kid. I can tell."

Great. My four-year-old's an expert on invisible genitalia, at least the kind that's evidently present in a Richard Scarry book. Maybe he's the one who should teach OWL.

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