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Bringing Up Baby Via Book Review

June 12, 2009


While sitting with my son, during story time at one of our myriad weekly venues for enjoying such activities (, I found myself judging. I suppose, as a parent and consumer, it was unavoidable to find myself breaking down a thing as simple as a ten page, heavily illustrated children’s book but it still froze me in my tracks.

Is it at all sane to view books for my 15 month old as I do books for my own shelf? Perhaps it is ok if I use cultural, moral, and other “child rearing” parameters for my overall assessment. I came up with three points I could live with in picking acceptable early reading without sounding completely overbearing. The first two are fairly heavy but the third is still of equal value.

1. How deep is the message?

Beyond sharing and pulling punches, I tend to look for things like kindness, understanding and bravery. Does the story teach children not only that they should not bully but that they should prevent others from bullying? Does it emphasize that being different is not simply good but also difficult?

2. Culture

The world is diverse and it makes sense for our media to reflect that as early as possible. Books that include, but do not  harp on or tokenize, a realistic role of all races, cultures, lifestyles and beliefs rank high on my list. (Emphasis on “not harp on or tokenize”.)

3. Aesthetics

This is a fairly shallow point of review but an important one to consider if the other two are expected to hit home. I know that the inclusion of kittens in a book will not always be a requisite checklist item but for the moment, the brighter the colors, the higher the animal count, the cuter the babies, the more mommy-stars a book receives as that is what will keep the reader’s  seat in his seat.

I can not tell you that I go through this list, item by item, each time I buy a book for Kai but as he moves from “This is a…” to “This is how…” I have noticed that my deliberation at the checkout counter has become longer and deeper and I can only venture a guess that this will increase as mom and son grow and learn.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. doulamama1 permalink
    June 12, 2009 9:16 am

    Fabulous idea for a blog:) I think at this age aesthetics is just as important, maybe even more important than the message or culture. Speaking of culture, I tend to buy Korean books for Graham (since, you know, we are in Korea an all). The aesthetics are fabulous in most of them. The culture is there no doubt. Couldn’t tell you the message of most of them, we just kind of make em up as we go!

  2. Kristen permalink
    June 13, 2009 12:34 am

    My Mom and I always try to look for books with a story and good message for Grayson. He has books with one word per page, but we prefer the stories. If I don’t enjoy reading it then I don’t buy it. That is my rule.

  3. June 14, 2009 1:35 pm

    Thanks so much for your post over at

    I’m bookmarking/rss-ing your site for sure! I’m raising an voracious reader–and this question of content and whether things are appropriate never go away. The questions just keep getting harder!

    I love the tips you share here. My child is older, but I do find her picking books that reflect the types of ideas (goodness, kindness, resisting stereotypes and teaching the breadth/depth of cultures, and attractive illustrations) that you talk about here–and that are important to us too!

    Thanks for this! Holly

  4. Vickie permalink
    June 18, 2009 12:30 am

    I love your way of analysing Kai’s books. I agree that it is very important to teach our babies as soon as we can all the good that we expect from others so that they can show it in return. And of course the aesthertics are as important in order to keep them interested. I am proud to say that Isabella is a book worm just like her mommy.

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