The other day, I found myself sitting at the bus stop on the corner of 4th and Wilshire. I had nothing to do, so I picked up a copy of one of the free magazines that always seem to be sitting in those weird, dilapitated newspaper vending machines in places like that – the kind that you’re never really sure if someone has recently pissed in.
So I sat there, and I started thumbing through my fresh copy of L.A. Parent. And you know what? By page 11, I loved the damn thing. Sure, some of it is trite – do I really need a yellow pages of potential party hosting sites? – but, to my surprise, I found some truly amazing material in there.
For instance, the book review section. Now, I don’t read the New York Review of Books, and I don’t know anyone my age who does. I’m in a grad program in writing, so that should tell you just how well-regarded the book review business is these days. But I read two of the most engaging reviews of two of the most interesting-sounding books that I can remember in those ten minutes of waiting. And in the end, I sort of started to appreciate the thought and trouble that goes into being a parent.
Who knew, huh?
Here are the books. Go buy ‘em. Whether you have kids or not. I only bought one – I think I got the gist of the other pretty quickly – but they’re both amazing, to me at least.
The first is called “What’s That Look On Your Face?” It’s a picture book of kids’ faces, accompanied by poems and funny, rhyming shorts that explain the kids’ expressions. From the review:
‘For instance, a drawing of a tearful boy and his baseball glove in front of a rainy window, and the little poem: So sad, so unhappy, mouth curving down / glum, melancholy, face wears a frown.’
It seems, trite, right? Well the book is for kids with autism. Autistic kids have incredibly strong left brains (logic / math) but intense problems understanding emotion and social interaction. This silly little book teaches kids who are essentially locked in prisons of their own minds pnemonic devices that play to their strengths, allowing them to understand the social cues that we take for granted and function normally in day-to-day life.
Yeah. ‘Holy shit’ is right.
The second is called “The Yankee at the Seder.” Here’s the premise: it’s the Civil War, and in the middle of rural Virginia, a Jewish Union soldier shows up at a Southern home to celebrate Passover. The southerners have to take him, despite the fact that they hold this man to be essentially a fighter out to destroy what everything they hold dear, because that’s what the spirit of Passover is all about. What a premise, right? And this is a children’s book.
Quite un an unexpected education for an Easter Sunday, huh?