Whenever we go to the library, I let Jack borrow five books, two DVDs, and two books on tape or CD. The audio books are a new thing because I only just figured out that we are allowed to borrow them. I thought they were like encyclopedias or something. I clearly did not think that all the way through or it would have occurred to me that it makes no sense not to allow people to borrow the audio books since one cannot listen to them in the library. What did I think they were for? Decoration?
But I digress. The point here is that when we go to the library, we borrow five books. Sometimes I choose them and sometimes Jack does. His technique is to grab whichever books he happens to lay eyes on; I try to be more discriminating. But life with two tiny people being what it is, I don’t usually have time to linger over the pages and I often make snap judgments based on the title and/or cover art. Sometimes this works out well, like with I Read Signs by Tana Hoban. Sometimes, not so much.
Take yesterday, for example. Last Saturday, we roasted marshmallows on the charcoal grill, and thus talked at length about fire. (Have I told you about last Saturday? The day started with Jack and Andrew setting up the tent in the backyard. Then a flipping hot air balloon showed up in the park half a block from our house, and we got to take a free ride in it. Next, Jack, Andrew and Nora went to a party with 40 million other kids and had a wonderful time. Meanwhile, I stayed home all by myself in the house for four hours nursing a minor illness, so things weren’t so bad here, either. Hey, did you know that if you stay home by yourself, you only have to clean the kitchen once in a while? Like, if you hang out on the computer for two hours and don’t go back into the kitchen, when you DO go back into the kitchen it will be in the same state you left it! I KNOW. Wait, where was I? Right. The party. So then they came home and Nora went to bed and the rest of us roasted marshmallows and then Jack and Andrew camped out. It was a good day, is what I’m saying.)
So ANYWAY. We roasted marshmallows and talked about fire and how it’s dangerous and only grown-ups can start one, etc. etc. Jack was quite fascinated, so when I found a book in the library called What Happens When Fire Burns? I thought it would be perfect! “How nice!” I thought. “A book explaining to children how fuel and oxygen are converted to carbon dioxide and water! What a lovely bedtime story!”
We read it last night.
The cover. Seems innocuous enough.
Ah, yes. Fire is friendly! Comforting! The screen keeps us safe, Jack!
But let’s not talk about the screen until we get to THIS page, which shows a fire without a screen. The screenless fire seems like it might not be so safe, actually. Hmmm.
Some people use fire to cook, just like we did with the marshmallows! Neat, huh?
Yes, never light a fire by yourself, Jack. It’s very dangerous. Always ask an adult. All sound advice.
Uhh… but we have smoke alarms! That keep us safe!
Look, firefighters! Aren’t firefighters wonderful?
Um, yeah, cars can, um, burn. Foam! Look, the firefighters use special foam! Isn't that cool?
And… trees can burn too. Um. Hey, did you know firefighters have special airplanes, too? That put out forest fires?
Jack, this page is boring. Let’s not read it.
Oh, dear Lord. Listen, Jack, we use fire to make electricity and it’s destroying the world. You might as well find out now.
But look, we can clean up after a fire! It only takes many, many years! It’s all OK. Eventually. After we’re all dead, probably. Oh, that house? THAT'S gone for good.
I mean, REALLY. I am not positive of the target audience for this book, but I certainly hope it is not meant for preschoolers, despite the very large print and simplified language and definitions. Go back and read that page on explosions. Really read it. Seriously? “What would happen if there was an earthquake?” Well, kids, the gas pipes would break and then catch fire and then explode. We’d all die. Good night!
Mr. Pickles is horrified.
Happily, there were no fire-based nightmares, but my goodness. We won’t be reading THAT again.