My daughter loves books. Loves, loves, loves. “Book” was among her first handful of words, and she loves looking at them, flinging them off the shelves, stacking them up, carrying them around, and handing them to us forcefully so that we will read them to her right now. Again and again.
At 14 months old, Eva already has very specific ideas about what kinds of books are good. I’m not surprised at her taste, but I am slightly surprised how difficult it is to find books that fit the bill. I don’t know why I should be surprised, since much of my life as far back as I can remember has revolved primarily around finding the perfect books — for myself, for my friends, for my husband, for this bookstore — and the very fact that it’s so difficult is what keeps me at it. I’m terribly picky. My husband is even pickier. And the bookstore, pickier still! So our daughter naturally has excellent taste.
As I search for more books that are like the ones she loves best, I realize I’m chasing the impossible: more instances of absolute brilliance. A book like In the Night Kitchen? Are you kidding? There simply is no other book like In the Night Kitchen — or Goodnight Moon, or The Snowy Day. And this is what I come up against in choosing books to stock in our bookstore. Our staff asks me for “more books like [fill in the blank]” and become frustrated when I fail to stack up the shelves with ever more brilliant books that they will love just as much as the best book they ever read.
I understand, though. There are so many (so many!) books in the world. Every time I discover one that blows my mind I realize that means there are more out there, somewhere, waiting for me. We all read so many mediocre books on the road to the ones that change our lives. It’s the very gentle price we pay for the chance.
So Eva and I make our way through the library, piling up picture books and hauling them back. Every so often one sticks, and that’s how very lucky we are.