Dear Santa – Please bring me these kid’s books that don’t exist yet. Signed, A Blog You Probably Don’t Read…
Have you ever gone looking for a particular book for your child only to realize, after a few days of furious Googling and bookstore calling, that the book in question simply does not exist? I have. Once you realize it, you just sort of sit there and go, “Wait a minute, you mean there aren’t ANY kid’s books about the first time you chip your tooth at the zoo… or the fictional outer space adventures of Neville Chamberlain… or the Biggest Ball of Twine in Minnesota? How is that possible?” (If those books do, in fact, actually exist, the world is an even cooler place than I thought it was.)
Sometimes, the non-existent book in question is just a random idea that pops out of my head. And, trust me, they’re not always solid concepts. (“Wouldn’t it be cool to have a book about the history of macaroni that was made out of macaroni and you could then boil it and eat it when you’re done?”) Other times, I am legitimately surprised to find a topic that doesn’t have an accompanying kid’s book to help my daughter better understand it. I am just so used to having libraries upon libraries of age-appropriate children’s books at my disposal to help my kid contextualize anything and everything that, when I find a gap in that coverage, it can be a jarring experience. (Last month, I spent a solid week trying to explain the Large Hadron Collider to my very curious six year old. I really could’ve used a Caldecott-nominee to back me up on that one…)
So, since the holiday season is a time for wishing to omniscient bearded deities, I decided to collect this list of Seven Children’s Books That I Really, Really Wish Existed. These are all the kinds of books that, as a book fan and as a parent, I would love to read with my daughter and that I hope someone, somewhere decides to write and publish one day.
(And, if these books already exist, TELL ME. I did cursory research on all of these ideas before posting this article, but I will gladly admit my mistake – and probably buy the book – if I missed any major titles.)
1. Kaiju for Kids
Kaiju monsters go wild in a panel from one of the greatest comic books ever – “Gumby’s Winter Fun Special”
What does “kaiju” mean? Here’s a link to the Wikipedia definition, but the shortest, most direct answer I can give you is “Kaiju = Godzilla.” Fans of the kaiju genre might debate that over-simplification, but, when you hear nerds talking about kaiju, they’re normally talking about the giant monster movie genre, most typically identified with Godzilla, Gamera, Mothra, and their ilk. Big monsters (a.k.a. men in suits), breathing fire and firing lasers, having battle royales in the middle of a cardboard city as the miniature locals run away screaming. Sometimes the giant beasts are good, sometimes they’re bad, sometimes they’re just an unstoppable force of nature. But they’re always big, tough, and looking for a brawl.
I think kaiju is just a PERFECT genre for kids. I mean, for a young child, what could be cooler than a 50-foot-robot and an impossibly big dinosaur throwing buildings at each other? (Seriously, what Fancy Nancy book could ever compete with that?) Plus, visually, the kaiju-style battles nicely parallel how kids play with their own toys. Give a kid some action figures and toy cars and, eventually, those giant toy men and women are going to roar and step on those cars. It’s imprinted in our DNA. And, even though there’s fighting in kaiju, I wouldn’t say that the genre is particularly violent. There are a lot of men-in-suits being thrown around balsa-wood cities, but there’s not a lot of bleeding, death, or pain. There’s mostly just stomping, roaring, and shoving things out of the way… which kind of sounds like a kindergartener to me. The definitive visual style of kaiju movies is based on contrasts – huge monsters transposed on top of relatively small cities. I think that contrast of images can be very fun and very powerful for kids, particularly for younger children who are still working on their motor skill development. If you’re a kid who’s still learning how to tie your shoes or properly hold a pencil, I think it would be incredibly satisfying to watch these lumbering beasts, bigger than anyone else around, stumble and fall and wreck things with impunity.
Final image from the poem “Godzilla Pooped on My Honda” from Adam Rex’s brilliant “Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich”
A quick Amazon search turned up a few out-of-print Godzilla picture books from the 1990s – copies of the best-looking title, Godzilla Likes to Roar, is now selling for more than $180 – but I can’t believe there aren’t more kaiju kid’s books. And they don’t need to be Godzilla books per se. I think a talented author or illustrator would have no problem coming up with new original kaiju monsters, replete with zippers down their backs, to populate a fictional metropolis, and I would love to see a children’s book creator really nail those parallels between the oddly-sized awkwardness of both fifty-foot dragons and five year olds. It just sounds like way too much fun.
2. First Trip to the Movies
She promptly shushed me soon after taking this picture…
This one really surprises me. As a parent, you are very aware of historically “big” landmarks in your child’s life. Their first step, their first haircut, their first day of school, and so on. And most of those landmarks have some sort of picture book or Berenstain Bear book to acknowledge and/or commemorate those momentous rites of passage. However, I couldn’t find any picture books about one of my daughter’s biggest “big” moments – her first trip to the movies. [read the rest of the post…]