Some of my favorite places to shop for books (besides the obvious bookstores) are at various attractions around town. I particularly love the book section at the garden – some of our favorite titles were purchased there, and I think they do an excellent job of presenting a variety of books that relate to gardening and the earth, with an emphasis on beautiful books with beautiful images. Ironically, some of my least favorite places to shop for anything else are these very stores at attractions. For a few years we just avoided souvenir shops completely – we didn’t need any objects with our names on them, or additions to our shiny rock collection. But now we do stop in occasionally – bypassing the souvenirs for the book section (usually in the back). Our zoo, our art museum, the garden… they all have really nice book sections with new titles we haven’t seen yet. The girls know they can plop down in the corner and read whatever they want. It’s almost guaranteed that we won’t be walking out with some light-up gadget bearing our name, or another stuffed animal wearing a logo shirt, but it’s a pretty sure bet that there might be a book or two in our arms.
I suppose that I’m a bit picky about my bookstore experiences, but I never was a big fan of some of the larger bookstores’ kid sections. The books on display always seem to lean pretty heavily on characters that exist elsewhere in animated form, and the books are often overshadowed by the toys and stuffed objects for sale. Here’s what I do like: I like a kid section that is off the beaten path a bit – in the corner or the back – where I can station myself and browse on my own without fear that the little one will escape onto the sidewalk. My focus in a bookstore is about half strength, so geography is important. I also like to see the covers of new books facing out as much as possible, and I love seeing recent works by our favorite authors, as well as the classic favorites. We are floor-sitters, so we’re perfectly fine with good books at all levels. I’ve been known to camp out in one spot in the library and check out a dozen books by authors beginning with an “L” – sometimes I crave a little focus when presented with an overwhelming amount of objects. Maybe this is why I like these small little book corners at the zoo or the art museum. Stopping in to see the mummies? Great. And here’s a stack of books at all levels about Egypt and the pyramids, and Egyptian art and hieroglyphs. And nary a Dora in sight.
Earlier this year I took E to a girl scout event at the zoo, and F tagged along. On the way out we stopped in the zoo shop – a place we generally breeze by without even slowing down. It was a quiet Sunday morning and we weren’t in a big hurry. We meandered to the back corner and found the books and stayed awhile. E picked out a book on crocodiles, and F found a penguin book to go along with her current obsession with the penguins at the zoo – I Am Small by Emma Dodd. I find myself pulling out this book quite often, mainly because the words are repetitive and I love starting the sentences and having F finish them for me. “The world is big..” “…and I am small.” She says her starting s’s more now, but I still can hear her say “…and I am mall”. For a little girl who is forever insisting that she is “bigger!” “I’m big now.” “But I am big enough!” all the time, it’s such a lovely way to wind down the day. I know she’s big and bigger and biggest, but at night she is still my baby climbing into my lap for a quick snuggle, no matter how much of her spills out and over my lap.
I Am Small by Emma Dodd is a sweet little book for penguin and animal lovers. It has really beautiful illustrations with a little bit of sparkle to them. We love the contrast between big and small, and all of the synonyms for those words. F particularly loves “large” – it’s a word she frequently uses to describe things bigger than big. What’s your favorite word for “big” – or “small”?
This would make a great gift for a new baby, or for a little one about to embark on the next big thing like school.
Find these titles at your favorite local independent bookstore. Happy reading!