A while ago the other preschool co-op parents and I had a meeting with this wonderful woman Peggy Reiman, who specializes in helping parents to deepen/supplement/create their children’s education. The thing she said that struck me the most was that in constantly asking our kids questions — you know, that frenetic and faintly ridiculous “Where’s the piggy in this picture? What does a piggy say? COME ON WHAT DOES A PIGGY SAY YOU KNOW THIS!” — we prepare them mostly for test-taking. She suggested that to encourage the kind of creative thinking, attention to detail, and page-scanning kids need to become good readers, we instead run our fingers across pictures with the kids and say things like, “Oh look, here’s a pig.” (I know, I know — reading! It’s so last century. Don’t tell my kids.)
It sounds so simple, and it is. Simply AWESOME. I started doing this with Harper and she really loves it. She will take my finger and push it across the page and order me, “Talk.” Or we’ll be reading a book and she’ll shake her head and say, “Show me the pictures.” I mean, “Show me the pictures, my beloved and respected mother.”
Now I notice she does this too. There is nothing better than finding her in some cozy nook or the reading fort, telling a dolly about a book. She does it to her brother, too: “See, Alton, this color is called purple, but you don’t know that because you’re just a little baby.”
ANYway, I mention all of this because Madlenka, by Peter Sis, is the perfect book for looking at in this attentive way. The book tells the story of a little girl who is psyched that she has a loose tooth, so she races around her Manhattan block telling her exotic friends from all across the world. I love a book that reminds you how cool it must be to grow up in NYC. But also, I love a book with insanely textured, complex, layered illustrations. (Click the images below to make them screen-bustingly big!)
We go through all the pictures, squinting to find the hidden Madeline on the french baker’s page, or turning the book around to see all the little cartoons about each country Madlenka “visits.” Now this is a good time!
Harper also loves Madlenka’s Dog, in which the poor deprived dogless child has to imagine a pooch, and all her international friends remember their own departed dogs. I’d definitely recommend both Madlenka and Madlenka’s Dog (less so Madlenka Soccer Star though Harper loved it so what do I know) to anyone looking for rich images to explore, reasons to love New York, or just another spunky picture book heroine to love. Also: fashion inspiration. Pink rain boots and yellow umbrellas are very in this season. At least, in this household.