The Writers’ Retreat
For the July 20 NY Times Book Review. Thanks to AD Nicholas Blechman and editor Pamela Paul!
Adventure through the jungle / De aventuras por la selva (ilustración de Simona Ciraolo)
"Do you need to go potty?" "Are you hungry?"
These questions mean almost nothing to some small children and their caretakers. Toddlers, like the protagonist of Neil Gaiman’s Chu’s Day and Chu’s First Day of School, have yet to learn to express themselves beyond basic “yes” and “no” answers.
Gaiman’s books capture the unpredictability of those years. The story of the little panda with a huge sneeze, which leaves destruction in his wake, is as much a story of parents’ anxiety of the awkward situations of childhood.
Chu’s innocent “No,” after a few close calls, is the “No” of the bed-wetter to potty before bedtime, two hours before he sheepishly appears at his parents’ bedside with wet pajamas. Chu’s cheeky smile mirrors that of the child who demands a snack in the library, after insisting all afternoon she’s not hungry.
While Chu still has an explosive sneeze in his second book, the focus turns to his own worries.
The extra dialogue between Chu and his parents in Chu’s First Day of School captures his first-day jitters.
"What will happen?" Chu asked his father. "Will they be nice?"
"They will be nice."
"Will they like me?" Chu asked his mother.
"Of course they will like you," she told him.
Whether Chu will make friends, or do what he does best, is all part of the fun of the story. Adam Rex’s illustrations set the story in a charmingly anthropomorphic animal community full of everything from mice to whales. The brevity of the books make them perfect for bedtime stories for the pre-school and younger set.
New from J.K. Rowling: Dumbledore’s Army Reunites At Quidditch World Cup Final
Is there a book you wish you could read again for the first time?>
"Reading by a Window"
In the heat of the books / Al calor de los libros (ilustración de Paul Thurlby)
Henry David Thoreau was born in Concord, Massachusetts on this day in 1817.
"I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was so companionable as solitude. We are for the most part more lonely when we go abroad among men than when we stay in our chambers. A man thinking or working is always alone, let him be where he will."
—from WALDEN (1854)