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Review week: Children’s books for parents

Posted Nov 4, 2011 by Courtney Cairns Pastor

Updated Nov 4, 2011 at 10:39 AM

There are children’s books you buy for children, and children’s books you buy for the parents.

You know the children’s classics – “The Very Hungry Caterpillar,” “Goodnight Moon,” “Guess How Much I Love You” come to mind. You snuggle up in a comfy chair with your child and read these kinds of books, trailing your finger over the illustrations to point out little details. Nice books. Staples of the toddler library.

But sometimes mom and dad want subject matter that speaks to them, too. We read three or four books to my son every night, and I have to switch it up now and then (usually around the time I can recite the book without actually looking at the pages). It’s also fun to share your interests with your child through a framework designed for them.

We have a hockey alphabet book that enabled my son to identify a Zamboni (we glowed with pride) and a Notre Dame picture book that taught him the fight song (this is all my husband).

Two books published this summer fit the parent-friendly genre and would make great baby gifts for new parents who like to take a different approach.

“The Rock and Roll Alphabet,” by Jeffrey Schwartz ($14.95), puts a music lovers’ spin on the old ABC’s. In Schwartz’s telling, “A is for Aretha, oft referred to as the Queen, B is for The Beatles in their Yellow Submarine.”

I loved the writing and the cadence. Who knew you could rhyme “British blues invasion” (C is for Cream) with “sonic exploration” (D is for The Doors)?

But the real thing that sets this book apart from others is the photography. Each letter is paired with a photo from the archives of the Chuck Boyd Photo Collection. Schwartz is the director of the collection, which highlights the career of photojournalist Chuck Boyd, who shot thousands of images of bands in the 1960s and 1970s.

One thing that would have been nice: sturdier paper. Little hands can do a job on regular paper. This might be the kind of book that parents don’t want to share.

Star Trek Book of Opposites,” published this September (Quirk, $9.95), is a tough, colorful board book that will withstand the toddlers. Some of the images, on the other hand, may be a little much for kids. Trekkie parents, though, will love it.


David Borgenicht writes from experience – he attended his first Star Trek convention at age 9. He’s also the author of the bestselling “Worst-Case Scenario” handbooks and a little gem called “How to Con Your Kid.” I like him already.

Opposites” has a simple layout. Each facing page has a pair of contrasting words, illustrated by campy stills from the show. Spock is “calm.” On the opposite page, Captain Kirk is looking “surprised.” You can also explore “appear” and “disappear,” “happy” versus “angry” and “furry” or “scaly.”

Some of the creatures could be scary for young kids. I don’t know what the monster/zombie/alien is who illustrates “mean,” but I’d prefer to skip right over that page.

Mostly it’s good, fun kitsch that will add a little humor into your bedtime reading routine.

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