The first Read Balloon blog post I ever wrote involved then 19-month-old Harper’s then-obsession with Eric Carle and Bill Martin’s classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See. She loved it so much that eventually it physically pained us to read it. We were so sick of it we’d periodically hide it. The tune of the song-version of the book haunted our dreams. We suffered Brown Bear PTSD. And then, just when we thought we couldn’t move our weary mouths to read the damn book one single time more…the frenzy broke, and her toddlery obsessiveness latched onto another host.
Then we went and had another kid. And guess what? Ollie is currently in the throes of his first serious book obsession. And guess what else? IT’S FUCKING BROWN BEAR BROWN FUCKING BEAR.
This is a kid who never holds still. This is a kid who’d never sat through even the slightest board book before. Here are his other obsessions: Playing with balls (don’t snicker not that kind). Eating as many chicken nuggets as exist in the universe. Smacking things with sticks. Banging on things. Breaking things. Climbing things. Pushing the footrest over to the record player to climb up, hear music and also to break stuff. He likes to hug Harper until she falls down. He’s just a crazy physical baby-tot-person, with little use for words other than pointing and grunting or the occasional “NANA” if you’re not delivering a banana quickly enough.
So it’s really amazing to see Ollie dig through a pile of books for Brown Bear and then pick it up and bring it over and plop down in your lap and demand the book, grunting, “Bruh Beah!” over and over and over. Tonight at bedtime I had to actually remove the book from the room because he kept bouncing up and pointing to it. He would love nothing more than to rifle through it while nursing, which, I’m sorry, is just a little too much for me. I do want him to have pleasant associations with reading…but dude, I’m not a cup of tea.
So anyway, this book is amazing. Those big, simple, lovely, bright pictures. Those animals. The repetition in a way that feels a little like a game. And the summary at the end, that wonderful page where Ollie loves to point at each animal and name them. “Bruh Beah. Unh. Unh. Unh. Na-Na. Unh.” This book is somehow the perfect book for babies and toddlers. How did they do it? I imagine Bill Martin had some sort of underground laboratory in which he tested out possible stories on test-babies. Or maybe it’s Eric Carle’s vivid, blocky, child-hypnotizing hoo-doo. But this book has been two for two in our household. And this time, probably because my brain is more melted now after so many years of picture books, I don’t even mind reading it. Again and again and again and again. I’m just glad it provides a momentary distraction from all the climbing and shouting and breaking.