Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Literary Overflow

The gods of literature and learning may strike me down, but this morning, while putting things away in my son's room, I had the thought, "My child has too many books."

One of the first things I bought for him before he was even born was a set of board books. My uncle sent me an Amazon gift card with instructions to use it to buy "things the baby will need," and my very first thought was, The baby will need books!

At my baby shower I was disappointed to receive only two children's books as gifts. When he was born I lamented the fact that only one small shelf on the bookcase in his nursery was actually occupied by books, the rest being filled with clothes and toys. For the first few months of his life I scoured used book sales. When people asked what he wanted for his first birthday, I slyly hinted that due to the generosity of his several sets of grandparents, he already had far too many toys for our small apartment, but a book — a book we would have room for. I repeated this message at his second birthday. And his third. And I kept using this excuse even after we moved to a bigger house.

So he acquired books about cars, books in about pets, the Thomas the Tank Engine books, the Little Bear books, and the Dr. Seuss books. Then his youngest uncles outgrew their books, and he wound up with a series of hand-me-downs.

We bought a bigger bookcase.

Then we joined the library storytime club and once a week while he listened to the librarians read books I looked over the library book sale table (Used Children's Hardbacks for Only 50 Cents!) for kids' science books that weren't too outdated. Suddenly his shelf bloomed with gently worn books about fish and birds and trees and honeybees and butterflies and the solar system.

Now he's in school and we get the Scholastic catalogs and we go to the school book fairs and his teachers send home free donated books.

And his bookcase shelves are bowed with the weight of his books. And his nightstand is covered in books. And he has books creeping onto my own overflowing bookshelf, and books on the coffee table in the living room, and books on the floor.

Last night he brought home a free book from school and this morning I realized I had literally no place to put it.

His room is already so packed with books and toys that there is certainly no room for a new shelf. He has outgrown so many of his books. Maybe it's now time to give some of them away? I mean, we'll have to make room, someday soon, for Little House on the Prairie and The Chronicles of Narnia.

But what to give away?

Sometimes, even now, when he's sad or scared at night or he's not feeling well, he still asks me to read him The Runaway Bunny or Goodnight Moon.

And I can't give away Moo Baa La La La. That's the first book he ever read all by himself! I should frame it or something.

And Green Eggs and Ham is a classic. Come on. Kids never outgrow that book. (Especially kids who are picky eaters.) So what if I have it memorized? Tossing out Green Eggs and Ham is like tossing out Chaucer.

Of course he needs two Mother Goose collections. They each have different versions of the poems. What better way to demonstrate to a five-year-old how regional variations develop in oral poetry?

A Color of His Own cannot go. That's the first book I ever read to him. And anyway I keep thinking it's sort of an allegory about exceptional people not fitting in to society and he'll probably appreciate that when he's older given his giftedness and his sensory disorder and all that.

Gatos? Hell no I am not getting rid of that little battered Baby Einstein board book about cats. It's not just the first book I ever read to him in Spanish — it's also the book I took to comfort him when he had surgery and he clutched it all night long. GATOS HAS TO STAY.


Perhaps we need a bigger house.


Andrea (@shutterbitch) said...

Aw, this is one of the sweetest posts I've ever read.

Jen said...

More bookcases. Bigger house. :) Sounds about right to me.

Debbie said...

Do you know -- one of the first times you ever commented on my blog, it was in response to my request for first-bday-gift assistance. I was working every last gray cell in order to conjure up the perfect gift. Something both currently enjoyable and also keepsake-worthy.

You recommended we buy books.

Love you, Jae.

Celeste said...

We just purged this weekend; I have a laundry basket of books to donate. Two people have ignored my emails about it; my feelings are actually hurt, as stupid as that sounds.

My take is that it's critical to save a few of the best books in the baby box. I think of ours as a time capsule for the parenting experience. Who knows if our daughter will ever care that we kept it, but I will.

I think I'm just going to give the leftovers to the library for their book sale. We only have one child so nothing gets really worn out. Once they're reading chapter books, the other stuff is toast. My mantra today? Chicka-chicka boom boom, will there be enough room? LOL

Joy said...

I firmly believe there is no such thing as too many books. Really! (I am also planning to develop our basement as a library, with built-in floor to ceiling shelves, to accommodate our familial addiction.)

I am determined, too, to make better use of the library. I remind myself that we can keep taking the same books out many many different times. And if we STILL need to keep taking the book out, then maybe I'll buy it.

But now my boys each NEED their own sets of Captain Underpants, and How to Train Your Dragon books, and I think we need a bigger house, with more bookshelves, too... Good luck!! :)

JJ said...

Would it be too obvious to suggest that you gather together the less precious ones, and find a way of giving them to people who can't afford books?

Jaelithe said...

Hi JJ! Nice to see you here in the comment section.

That's actually what I was trying to do. Gather the ones that are not important to us, and put them in a box to give to charity or to friends who are about to have a child.

It's just hard selecting which ones to give away because I like all of them ;) But I'm sure I'll winnow it down eventually.

Awesome Mom said...

I was just pondering this very issue this morning. We have a ton of books and more on the way and I still look at the scholastic fliers and ponder additions to our collection. I think I do need to thin out the less popular ones though.

Lisse said...

I just had to do this with my boys. My younger child keeps reaching for books that are far too easy for him. I spent a full weekend afternoon weeding. It was really hard to do.

sugaredharpy said...

You are my people. My favorite baby shower gift to give is a collection of Shel Silverstein books.

Snowbrush said...

He is so young to be afflicted!

Your blog entitled "...discontent" gets posted on a lot more than your blog entitled "sustenance". A mere coincidence, perhaps?