Thursday, March 31, 2011

Waxing Nostalgic

A recent post by Read-Aoud Dad about his difficulty talking to his twins when they were babies resonated with me. As a writer and bit of an introvert (okay, as a lot of an introvert), I spend hours wrapped up in my thoughts. Back then I often had to make a conscious effort to remember to speak to my young daughter. Don't be alarmed; she grew up just fine.

My taciturnity didn't extend to reading, thank goodness. I read to her frequently, and starting when she was a baby. Thinking back to those days, I remember some of the books that she especially enjoyed and that I read to her again and again and again. Luckily, she had good taste, so I didn't mind. (The exception was The Little Engine that Could, which one of her doting aunts gave her. Was that book long! The illustrations were fun, but I never bought into its moral. Sometimes, frankly, it's just better to call it a day and give up. But that's me. When my daughter handed me the book, my solution was to "read" a heavily abridged version of it.)

But that's jumping ahead. As a toddler she had three or four favorite books. Two were board books by Rosemary Wells, Max's Bedtime and Max's Birthday, a special favorite. Max receives a wind-up dragon for a present and is scared of it. Until it stops. Then he wants it wound up again. Hilarious stuff to an 18-month-old.

The Story of a Fierce Bad Rabbit was a gift from my mother, who presented all her young grandchildren with a copy of Beatrix Potter's tale. Unlike many of Potter's more famous works, A Fierce Bad Rabbit is short, with just one or two lines per spread. Its simple, direct story is what makes it so perfect for toddlers.

It begins "This is a fierce bad Rabbit; look at his savage whiskers, and his claws and his turned-up tail." The illustration reveals an ordinary bunny, nothing fierce or savage about it. Turn the page. "This is a nice gentle Rabbit. His mother has given him a carrot." The good rabbit is the mirror image of the first.

The bad rabbit proceeds to take the good rabbit's carrot, hurting the rabbit "very badly." A man with a gun mistakes the bad rabbit, now eating the carrot, for a bird, and shoots it (yes, shoots it). Off the bad rabbit streaks, unharmed except that it's missing its tail and whiskers.

The bad rabbit in the act of stealing the carrot.

This simplistic tale of good versus bad (which resides in us all, hence the brilliance of the two rabbits looking alike) enthralled my daughter. And, let's face it, keeping your hands off other people's carrots is a lesson worth knowing. Think of all the world leaders who would have benefited by having Potter's tale read to them when young.

I'll save my toddler daughter's other favorite book for another post. Stay tuned.


  1. Oh yes, A Fierce Bad Rabbit. A great book if I do say so myself. Pulls no punches. Perfectly suited to a toddler's view of the world. (Though I know its violence appalls some.)

    A Fierce Bad Grandma

  2. I have never been able to get my girls interested in Beatrix Potter books.
    I'm with you on The Little Engine That Could; what a tedious book!