Call me crazy.
But first, know that we’re reading the Cozy Classics version, which is a 12-page board book with pictures. My husband still thinks it’s silly. But I can’t remember the last time I’ve been so excited about a book.
I found the Cozy Classics website and of course immediately wanted to buy all of the titles they sell. But because the illustrations are all handmade from felt and thread, which I assume takes a long time to do, there are only 12 titles available and each is actually kind of expensive. So instead I bought just three, two I plan to give as baby shower gifts (only to my avid reader friends) and Moby Dick to keep for my daughter.
Sure, Sadie’s not going to actually grasp Melville’s themes of mankind’s place in the universe, the futility of revenge, or fate, nor will she appreciate his metaphors and symbolism. But, still, there are lots of reasons why giving her a classic is a great idea. For one, many children’s books feature animals—see the article at http://www.aeonmagazine.com/nature-and-cosmos/what-do-our-children-learn-from-the-very-hungry-caterpillar/ for proof of animals overtaking kid lit—and while the story of the white whale might not be a typical animal hero story, it will still no doubt catch her eye. For another thing, it helps with identifying emotions, which is important as more in more children (1 in 88, in fact) are diagnosed with autism.
The small book has a narrative arc – exposition (“Boat” says one page) – rising action (“Captain;” “Leg;” “Mad”) – climax (“Smash!”) – falling action (“Sink”) – and resolution (“Float”). Of course, that means it also should come with a spoiler alert warning for parents who haven’t read Moby Dick and don’t know it ends with the Pequod sinking. This book has characters, it has tension, it has description through the lovely pictures—in fact, it has everything I tell my creative writing students they need to work into their own writing.
And, maybe one day, Sadie will pick up the “real” copy of Moby Dick I’ve placed on her bookshelf along with this Cozy Classic and have a vague, happy memory associated with it. A memory of sitting on Mom’s lap in the rocking chair, cuddling with her blankie and her thumb in her mouth, learning about words and feelings and stories. Maybe she’ll remember how wonderful learning was at that age, how all she wanted to do then was learn. Maybe she’ll realize learning should be wonderful at all ages, and maybe—maybe—she’ll decide to read Moby Dick again. And if she does, I’m sure she’ll learn even more.