Normally, when I write about a favorite book of one of my sons, it’s a children’s book—perhaps a picture book, perhaps a chapter book, perhaps a classic that even has adult appeal, but definitely a children’s book. Casting my mind back, I can think of a few temporary picks of theirs that you couldn’t honestly describe with that term, but those were almost always image-heavy coffee-table books, generally science- and/or art-oriented.
But recently, Griffin, my almost-two-year-old, has developed a fascination with a sports autobiography—a 200-page hardcover with very few photographs. I suppose the fact that it’s Yogi Berra’s autobiography could theoretically be part of the explanation—the man is pretty irresistible as sports legends go—but while my Yankee fandom does run pretty deep, I have not, I swear, been coaching my toddler on the names behind all those retired numbers (yet). I’m fairly certain Griff cannot have any real idea who Yogi is.
So when he first plucked the book off my bookshelf, I figured it was just one of those random things: He liked the yellow on the cover, maybe. Or the admittedly winning vintage photo of Yogi there. I figured he’d leaf through it a bit, discover nothing but pages and pages of words, and move on.
He didn’t. He insisted, in fact, on taking it upstairs to join his bedtime reading pile, the rest of which is made up of more usual fare for his age: In the Night Kitchen, a Charlie & Lola book, Mama, Is It Summer Yet?. And, yes, he insists on having it read to him—not much, just a page or so a night before moving to one of the other books, but it’s become part of the ritual. He doesn’t have the attention span for much more than that, even assuming he’s truly interested in the childhood of Lawrence Peter Berra in St. Louis. But he also keeps coming back to the book again and again, and we’ve now made it in this page-by-page fashion through the minor leagues and Yogi’s World War II service to his first games with the Yankees.
About a week ago, Griff hadn’t asked to be read to from the Yogi book for a while. I figured perhaps this mystery had run its course, and brought it back downstairs and reshelved it on my bookshelf, in a slightly different place from where it had been before. The next day, it was out on the floor of the family room with Griffin’s other books. No other books from my shelf were there, or even on the floor next to it; he had gone looking for it, found it, and reappropriated it.
Somehow, I remain unconvinced that the life and times of a professional baseball player who retired a half-century ago can be this compelling to someone who’s not two years old yet. I’m sure Griff will have lost all memory of the Berra book by the time I can really ask him to explain, and will just give me one of those blank looks you get from kids when you talk about their first years. But you can bet I’m going to ask anyway, just in case.
[Photograph by R at the English language Wikipedia, via Wikimedia Commons.]