Last week, I was invited to the 10th B’day party of one of my distant nephews. Before hitting the venue, I needed to pick up a quick gift (for me, it’s books always) on the way.
Comics or some brain-boosting activity books? I swayed but later it dawned upon me- I had no effing clue whether the kid reads anything at all.
So I picked up safe bait- ‘The Not-So-Great-Depression’ by Amy Coss. Cause? The need for Money is ubiquitous, even in the ‘sub-conscious’ mind of a babe.
As a non-parent (and someone averse to noisy, stinky brats but love reading kiddie-books), I used to find it very hard to select- books as gifts for a child.
In case you are going through same brain-teaser, here’s a kid-books ‘selection’ cheat sheet for you.
Introduce them to money and sex
Growing up, my parents (slackers) threw only handful of parties on my birthday.
During those few celebrations, I only got books as presents. In my utter delight, those were only about fairy tales.
Now I look back and wish how beneficial it would have been if somebody could gift me books on money or sex.
I (like millions around India) grew up ignorant about them only to be smacked-on-face later that, world revolves around two Fs- the-must-not-be-named-here-F and finance.
Tip: If you are an Indian, be careful while gifting book on “sexual education”, at a birthday celebration.
In case, it’s a super conservative household, you might incur the ‘parental’ wrath.
Little ‘heart-break’ here, ‘grown-up’ stuff there
Nothing should be held back from children, on that they are too young and that it’s too early for them to know. What a sad and unfortunate idea!-
– Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Idiot
I first read about man-to-woman lip lock at the age of 11. It was from the cult Bengali memoir Na Hanyate (It Doesn’t Die).
My mother put the book off-limit for a long time, till one day I found about the hiding-hole; fished the hard-back out from there, finished up the whole novel in one night.
It was the maiden point-of-contact between my conscience and ‘forbidden’ things like heartbreak, sensuousness, unrequited love etc.
But the book didn’t make me kissing every other bloke in the market or turned me into a nymphomaniac. Thus, turning ma’s fear-null and void.
Rather, I reached out and started off many cult classics in Bengali, absolutely for grown-ups.
From them, I learned about the deep-rooted patriarchy in my country, the history of 19th century Bengal, Indian freedom movement and many more.
Subjects, that otherwise, deemed so boring in my history text books/moral science classes.
Point: Learning about little heart-break, a whiff of romance or guerrilla warfare won’t make the child precocious; given you choose only quality reading material there.
Abridged version of classics
Yes. They may sound dated, the language stilted and plot contrived for the kids growing up in infotainment age.
But When I doubt, pick up an abridged classic. If it was not for shortened paperback of Swiss Family Robinson or Heidi, the mini-‘me’ wouldn’t have known important facts, like-
a) how to survive in a stranded island and
b) back there in Switzerland, they make cheese from effing goat-milk.
Tip: The power lies in abridged/modern versions of classics. Otherwise, classics-that-didn’t-age-well (Robinson Crusoe, I am talking about you) could put the old-me into sleep, let alone a hapless child.