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(Sasha Barr for The Globe and Mail)
(Sasha Barr for The Globe and Mail)

I'm hooked on story time Add to ...



At one point or another we have all been so sucked in by a book that we simply cannot put it down.

This seems reasonable when the book is a best-selling thriller or engrossing work of fiction. It verges on embarrassing when the book is a seven-page hardcover (all the pages are hard, in fact) called Dog's Birthday.

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People say parenthood changes you. You certainly have less time to read and my brain seems to have adapted to this new reality. By now I have learned that skimming the headlines of the newspaper each day provides enough essential information to carry on a conversation at the park.

For instance, if you've glanced at the paper and read, "Apple releases latest iPhone," you're practically a tech insider on a play date. You won't be able to delve deeper into this or any other topic before you're shouting, "Do not bite Simon's face! We do not bite faces!"

Moments later you're apologizing to another child's parent whose toy your kid just grabbed. You now have a conversational clean slate. You can smoothly move into discussing the latest fashion trends by recalling seven simple words, "Nautical look makes big splash this season." And so on.



Apparently when you let your expectations slide in one medium it's a slippery slope.


I accept this truncated view of the world as a necessary and, most importantly, temporary part of being at home with my son, Felix, who is almost 2. I hang on to the belief that my mind is still hungry for information, but the ability to gather it and remember it is on hold.

I never realized how far down the intellectual ladder I'd slid until we dove into the aforementioned work of literature, Dog's Birthday. We were almost finished sharing in Dog's birthday revelry when Felix started fidgeting and pushed the book away. Enough.

But I couldn't put the book down. I had an intense desire to know what happened after Dog unwrapped his present (a ball) from Bird. I was unable to resist the urge to turn to the last page to see Dog curled up asleep on a blanket that Mouse had given him. And to my surprise I felt a comforting relief knowing that Dog was content and the day had worked out well for him.

Apparently when you let your expectations slide in one medium it's a slippery slope.

I put the unsettling incident out of my mind. Then we were at the cottage on a holiday weekend and Felix and I came upon a new book, Jake's Perfect Day.

With a slightly more complex narrative, Jake's Perfect Day is the story of a young rabbit going for a walk across a field carrying a bag of snacks. He meets a hungry horse and gives him an apple, then he meets a hungry pig and gives away his crackers and then he meets - slam!

Felix rejected the book and threw it on the floor. He was done. But was I? The familiar anxious feeling washed over me. What happened to Jake? Did he give away his sandwich? I bet he did. But to whom? He must have been starving. And probably lost - after all, it was Jake's first time in that field and there was bound to be a twist.

I couldn't bear it. I needed closure. With or without Felix I had to forge ahead. Let me assure you that it ends well for Jake - the horse and pig come through in a pinch.

By the time we cracked the spine of the crime thriller Police Officer Patrick (the man directs traffic, interrogates a clown and finds a lost frog all in one day), I had given in and decided to bask in the soothing ease of the narrative.

But as Felix and I reread these books (over and over), I find myself starting to ask some hard questions. Sure, I know the books end on a high note, but things could change.

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Vicki, Mouse, Bird and Cat got Dog some great gifts this year, but what are they going to get him next year? Is Dog seriously friends with Cat? How did a small mouse wrap such a big blanket? How long do mice live anyway? Will Mouse make it to her next birthday?

As for Jake the rabbit, I tried to envision a Google map of the field he was crossing relative to his house. It might just be me, but I'm not so sure Mrs. Rabbit could see him the whole time like she said she could. As for Officer Patrick, I think he has some issues with work-life balance.

I used to be upset that Felix always gravitated to the "boring" books with the simple concepts of birthday parties and rabbits going on walks instead of the imaginative, beautifully illustrated books like Where the Wild Things Are or even Curious George.

But if curiosity can kill a cat (and they have nine lives), how long can the luck of one small monkey last? And does a hungry boy really come back psychologically unscathed from an island of wild beasts?

Felix seems to know he's not ready for that level of storytelling. Or maybe he's just protecting me. Somehow my world seems to have become simply complicated.

Sue Riedl lives in Toronto.

Follow on Twitter: @sueriedl

 

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