Writer Daniel B. Smith says he’s read The Very Hungry Caterpillar to his daughter 796 times , and I’m here to tell him to put the book down and step away. I’m the expert, and I hereby declare that if your kid’s favorite book fills you with loathing and despair. then it’s OK for that book to mysteriously disappear.
It’s a dangerous life, being a children’s book. All kinds of perils await. You could fall into the bathtub, say, or slip from a parent’s hand above the recycling, or just topple down behind the bookcase amidst the dust bunnies and teeny tiny Lego pieces. Not that that’s what happened to Goldilicious , or Snowmen at Christmas after its 40th reading this past July. Oh, no. And Snappy Little Springtime , with its predictably perky rhymes by committee and ripped and shredded pop-ups? I’m sure it’s still on the bookshelf somewhere. You’re just not looking hard enough.
Mr. Smith’s wife rightly defends The Very Hungry Caterpillar and his daughter’s attachment to it. Kids like repetition. They like regularity, and rhythm. Making the same delightful discoveries turning the pages of the same delightful book every single night for weeks and months and years on end fills our progeny with a sense of security and a conviction that all’s right with the world. I said so myself, when I coauthored Reading with Babies, Toddlers and Twos with reading expert Susan Straub. So here I am, author, expert, and DoubleX’ s resident authority on children’s picture books, and I say: So what?
You’ve done the repetition thing. You’ve been held prisoner by Eric Carle, or Sandra Boynton, or Margaret Wise Brown for long enough. Change is also good. New experiences are good. Daddy’s sanity is very good. Mr. Smith, if that book suffers a tragic fate, your daughter will grieve, and then move on. You can console her with The Pigeon Wants a Puppy , Bark, George! , or the madly illustrated classic fairy tales collected in Yummy! . We legions of fellow reading-aloud parents are behind you. You are not alone. Just don’t tell your wife I said so.
What’s the next book soon to sleep with the fishes in your house? Post your nominations (and their ultimate destination) on Xxtra Small’s Facebook page.