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March 7, 2012

Security Blanket: Hands

We've recently reached yet another fascinating stage (aren't they all, really?) of parenting: Our three-year-old, Griffin, is starting to pick his way through many of the books his older brother, Dash, read back when he was three. It's interesting to see which he loves more than Dash did, and which of the old favorites he has little time for; there are ample examples of both. But the best endorsement our family can now give a children's book is that both kids have independently taken it to their hearts.

Hands: Growing Up to Be an Artist, by Lois Ehlert, is a 2004 book we'd almost forgotten about—it's been that long since Dash read it much. But Griff picked it off the shelf recently, and now it's again one of the new regulars at bedtime.

It's written from the perspective of a girl whose mother and father both work around the house in various handy, crafty ways—painting, sewing, building, planting. Ehlert illustrates this abstractly with busy close-up photo-collages of the materials and items being worked on, and cutouts of the different types of work gloves they use. The narrator then explain how she's been allowed to pitch in and learn how to do all these tasks, with a work space and tools of her own. The book ends with a series of work gloves that tie mother, father, and daughter together: one big crafty family.

This message of family creativity is, of course, nearly irresistible to parents of a certain bent, and this could have been one of those books that the adults adore but the kids are bored by. But Dash seized upon it as a toddler and didn't let go for years; it was a recurring favorite for a long, long time. Now Griff has done the same, and despite being a very different personality, seems to respond just the same way Dash did to Ehlert's simple text and multifaceted collages. 

The book also seems to magically survive toddler reads in a way most books with cutouts don't—somehow, mysteriously, those work-glove pages don't have torn fingers. Since Hands is not made of heavy-duty cardboard or anything like that, I can only attribute this to a weird respect the boys have for the book...realizing as I type it how very bizarre that statement is!

[Cover image courtesy of Harcourt Children's Books]

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