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 for kids' science books that weren't too outdated.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.