Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
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Sunday, June 23

Gapers Block

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My son has been surrounded by books his entire life — from my collection of more than 200 books to his father's photography and motorcycle maintenance books — so it seems only natural that he would also develop a love of books. Having read to him since before he was born, there have been a ton of books we have gone through and until recently, we could pretty much read anything I wanted. Stitch N' Bitch Nation — we read that; the latest issue of Sunset magazine, we did that too. However, now that he is able to pick out what he wants to read, he is sticking to his favorites, which he'll take from the bookcase and give to me while he plants himself on my lap.

There are three books which are currently on heavy rotation in our home: If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond, That's Disgusting! by Francesco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais, and Picture This... by Alison Jay.

If You Give a Mouse a Cookie is about a back packing mouse traveler who comes upon a small boy eating cookies outside his front door. The boy gives him a cookie, which sets off a chain of events involving the mouse. After the cookie, the mouse wants some milk. Next he wants to clean his milk mustache then trim his whiskers, which causes him to sweep up the boy's house, take a nap, draw a picture of his family, ask for another cookie which in turn has him wanting another glass of milk. Basically it's really just about a little rat bastard who comes into your home uninvited, messes up the joint and still expects you to give him more food — albeit in a very charming way.

While it might sound a bit tedious, it is actually pretty cute. Felicia Bond's illustrations make the book great to look at and Numeroff's writing has a nice rhythm to it which make it a fast good read, even if it does involve a bossy mouse's flood of demands and quasi obsessive-compulsive behavior.

The "If You Give..." series also includes If you give a Moose a Muffin and If You Give a Pig a Pancake. My husband is hoping If You Give a Mouse a Chainsaw and If You Give a Pig Some Bacon will make their way to bookstores soon. Here's hoping!

The French duo Francesco Pittau and Bernadette Gervais, who created That's Mean! and That's Dangerous present the raunchy and fun That's Disgusting! This book was given to me as a gift just before my son was born, despite the initial gag reflex during the first read, I must admit That's Disgusting! has really grown on me.

The book presents a series of actions performed by one child which are labeled as disgusting. It serves as a way to start a dialogue with your child on which things are probably not the best or cleanest things to do. Like what you say? Well, like painting with earwax, sculpting with cat poop, drinking your bath water (Sorry, Gwen. That's disgusting), clipping your fingernails at the dinner table or blowing your nose into your curtains. Theoretically, your child might be ready to sculpt with cat poop, but if he or she remembers that that's disgusting, he or she might not do it. So it's not so much a lesson as to what's gross and "cool" as it is a subtle lesson in grace and courtesy.

Some parents I know have said that the book is too gross and that it crosses the line in good taste. One example often given is the "Sticking your finger in a cat's butt" page, to which I reply, well, the name of the book is That's Disgusting! not My, That is Refreshingly Pleasant! If you're not faint of heart, this book is funny enough to keep you and your child entertained for a long time.

Finally, there is Alison Jay's gorgeous and ethereal picture book Picture This... This chunky easy-to-hold book is my son's absolute favorite. What appears to be a simple picture book is actually an amazing collection of primitive folk art style illustrations that resemble vintage crackled porcelain.

With so much detail packed into every page, Alison Jay draws each one as a puzzle — a very sophisticated "Where's Waldo" — in which one item that appears somewhat hidden in one page, appears prominently in the next. For instance, a fish in a bowl appears as a small tackle on a fisherman's hat in the following page; a toy airplane in a toy box is then shown as an airplane in the sky. Additionally, the illustrations gradually take you through all four seasons. This amazing book is simple enough for the youngest readers (each page contains only one word) and eye-catching enough for the adults. I honestly do not get tired of looking at this book and neither does my son.

For the most part, I don't mind reading these books on a daily basis. And if you are going to end up reading the same books over and over and over and over again, you should make sure you enjoy them as much as your child does. Reading these books everyday won't make you want to stab your eyes out, and isn't that a pretty good recommendation? I think so.

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About the Author(s)

Alejandra Valera is a new mom and writer. If there's a baby- or kid-friendly place, product or event you think she should cover, email her at .

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