Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hello in 2011! In this, my first post in this calendar year, I'm departing from Tuscany and Umbria to enthuse about a book for children that has nothing to do with travel (except in a small way). People who write for their own blogs can, of course, write about whatever they want, myself included, which can sometimes be annoying. Who has the time to read about a whole bunch of useless stuff? (Probably those same people I see hanging out in coffee bars, but that's another topic.)

I believe that my blog features a lot of useful, interesting, and just plain fun information, even if it doesn't all relate directly to travel, like The Butt Book by Artie Bennett (illustrations by Mike Lester, Bloomsbury, 2010). This picture book is written in rhyme -- very hard to do well -- and though it's not as lengthy as, say, a book by Dr. Seuss (the king of rhyme), it's the perfect length for the seven-and-under set and is great fun to read aloud. And here's the thing of it: kids love butts. Girls and boys both. They positively can't hold back when someone mentions the word butt or bottom, and they typically burst out laughing. One of the best gifts in the world to give a kid is a rubber whoopie cushion (and at about $1 it's one of the cheapest, too) - a whoopie cushion guarantees peals of uncontrollable laughter, and after a while the adults can't help but laugh too because the kids are falling down and practically about to expire. And do you remember heinie bumpers? Just asking someone in a pool if they want to do them usually results in smiling, but then after you do them -- two people hold hands and then go under water with their feet touching and then swing around until their butts meet -- you are just howling. But just mention of the word 'butt' (sorry, no pun intended) brings huge smiles to the faces of kids, and in this winning book Bennett reminds us that "Butts are vital body parts, important as our heads or hearts," yet he also notes that "when dancing, you can shake your booty. Shake, shake, shake you little cutie." I said earlier that this book relates to travel in a small way, and it does so when Bennett explains that "Some names for butts have foreign flair: tuchas, keister, derriere!" and "In England, where they call moms "mums," people call their buttocks "bums." (I love any book that expands a kid's horizons, even in a small way.)

It warms my heart to know that I'm not alone in my enthusiasm for this book: The Brooklyn Paper says "you gotta love The Butt Book" and The Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books opined that "...the verse is reliably and rewardingly silly. Use this for revving up the silliness anytime." Bennett is a wordsmith par excellence -- browse his witty site, -- and, among other distinctions, he is probably the youngest person ever to have sold a crossword puzzle to The New York Times.

Now that I think of it, giving a young child a whoopie cushion and a copy of The Butt Book just might possibly be the most perfect gift on earth. And there's no need to wait for a holiday or a special occasion: let the laughter begin now.

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