Squatch’s Summer Reading List

A little light reading to start off the day.

A little light reading to start off the day.

Howdy, Computer People! Squatch here—again—since Daddy can’t seem to get it together to run this place anymore. When you want stuff done right, you have to cry until it happens, y’know?

So I’m coming onto the bloggy-ma-jobby today to talk to you guys about reading. It’s super important, in case you didn’t know, and super fun. After cars, trucks, planes, trains, dinosaurs, applesauce, hamburgers, and swings, reading is my favorite thing!

And I’m sure, since Daddy tells me I’m a big computer celebrity, everyone in the computer is wondering what I like to read. It’s a good question, because aside from Mater, I’m the most interesting person I know. Why wouldn’t you want to know the books I like to read?

Maybe you can consider this Squatch’s Book Club—kind of like that lady on TV, only I don’t give out free stuff. This isn’t about my books that Daddy likes. All the books here come with the Squatch seal of approval, and if that’s not worth something, then you’re not worth knowing.

Wait, that was rude. Say you’re sorry.

Now, onto the Squatch book picks for the summer of whatever year this is.

Bear in Underwear

BIUbookThis book tops the list this year. I don’t know what it is about this one that I like so much. Maybe it’s the squishy cloth underwear on the front cover that are so much fun to touch. Maybe it’s that I can actually pronounce* all the words in the title. Maybe it’s the bright colors, which are always a big hit.

*[Daddy’s note]: Kind of. “Underwear” sounds like “uh-weh,” but we’re going to count it.

Whatever the reason, I can’t get enough of this book. I like it so much that Mommy and Daddy ripped off the design for my birthday invitations, and Gram said she’d make me a Bear in Underwear cake for my party. I don’t know if they’ve given out the Pulitzer for this year*, but this one is a sure-fire winner.

*[Daddy’s note]: It’s not eligible because A) it’s a picture book, B) it was published in 2010, and C) it’s about an anthropomorphic bear finding a backpack full of underwear and sharing it with his friends. Oops—spoiler alert.

The Little Blue Truck books

LBTbooksLittle Blue Truck is about a truck. So is Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. That makes them automatic winners. Throw in a gaggle of animals making noises and a bunch of other cars, also making noises, and you’ve got a couple contenders for Night-Night Book of the Year. (That’s a thing, right?*) I can—and do—have Mommy and Daddy read both of these books over and over and over. And over again, just to make sure they’ve picked up on all the nuances of plot and characterization.

*[Daddy’s note]: Nope.

The only downside to these books is that one of the lessons they’re trying to teach is about slowing down and taking turns. This flies in the face of everything I know about the world. It just doesn’t work that way. First of all, you have to go fast. Second, it’s always my turn. Always. But if you look past the pie-in-the-sky idealism here, they’re pretty good page-turners.

Dr. Seuss Bright and Early Board Books

SuessbooksThese books are a must own for every bookshelf. Of course, I’m talking about the original trilogy here—if you find anyone that says his favorite is The Foot Book, well, you just can’t trust anything else that comes out of his mouth. You have to read them back-to-back, three times over, in the proper order, too. First comes There’s a Wocket in my Pocket!, then Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?, and finally ABC.

Occasionally, you might run into the occasional person who says ABC should come first, because you have to learn the alphabet. But these people are nuts. If you read ABC first, you miss the setup of the zany creatures in Wocket, which helps establish the altered reality of the world. Mr. Brown helps ground the reader in a familiar setting, while ABC helps tie the two threads together into a satisfying conclusion. Duh.

Hippos Go Berserk

HGBbookWho doesn’t love hippos, honestly? And going berserk? C’mon! Put them together? Gold!

I’ve read this one so much that Daddy has it memorized. Sometimes, I like to sit on my stool in the bathroom with it while Daddy’s in the shower and he reads it to me. I don’t even have to flip the pages. THAT’S HOW GOOD IT IS!

The bad part about this book is that you can see all the plot twists coming once you see where she’s going with it. The hippos keep counting up and you know at some point, with that many hippos, they’re going to go berserk. Then it starts counting down and—well, I’m not going to spoil the ending for people who don’t understand basic plot formulas.

Tootle

TootlebookThis would probably be my No. 1 favorite all-time book, except for one thing: I have no idea what happens in it. Whenever Mommy or Daddy tell me to go pick out a book, this one’s my first go-to. Even when they try to hide it in the middle of all the Golden Books, I yank them all out till I find this one.

But I don’t ever actually want to read it. I just like to point out the choo-choos. Have you ever seen this book? SO MANY CHOO-CHOOS! We haven’t ever actually made it past the second page of the story. I mean, look at that cover—if that’s not the happiest friggin choo-choo you’ve ever seen, I’ll eat a whole Chipotle chicken taco and the little bag of chips that comes with it*.

*[Daddy’s note]: Don’t take that bet. He’ll do that anyway.

Machines and Colors

MachinesNColorsThey’re not the same book, but I lumped them together anyway because they’re both kind of plotless and more character-driven.

These are tried-and-true favorites that I keep going back to time and time again. I love machines, so that one’s kind of a no-brainer. I don’t think I can even count how many machines are in that book, but it’s a lot. And I’m learning my colors, so the other book really helps, too. I’m getting really good at them by now. (Pro tip: The answer’s always “yellow.”*)

*[Daddy’s note]: No, it’s not.

Bears on Chairs

BOCbookI’m going to be perfectly honest here—I included this book to throw Mommy a bone. She really likes reading me this one.

Not that I can blame her, mind you. I mean, it’s got bears, and that’s always a crowd pleaser. And it’s got chairs. I like chairs. And that Big Brown Bear is a riot. Plus, as a bonus, it rhymes. You can’t hate that.

It’s just all about sharing, which, as I’ve already established, is a little bit of a useless lesson. I can understand why Mommy likes that, though. She loves sharing. She almost always shares her dinner with me. And her cookies. And ice cream. And water from her Mommy cup. And anything else when I want it. She’s a sharer. It makes sense that this is her favorite book ever. Daddy never shares. I think he tried to bite me once when I tried sharing*. And he holds that fork like he’s going to stab a wildebeest with it. I like sharing with Mommy.

*[Daddy’s note]: This is probably almost certainly completely sort of untrue. I think. I get into kind of a fog when it’s mealtime, so I can’t be sure.

So there’s your reading assignment for the summer, computer people. Better get to it. Any suggestions for me? I’ll pass them along to my staff.

& let the words begin

Finals week where I teach* was last week, which means I’m now on summer break. Also known as Dad Time. It’s another summer full of me and the Squatch, only this time he’s mobile and stir crazy. This could get interesting.

*Well, I should say “taught” now. I’m not going to be back there in the fall, but I can’t quite admit it to myself yet. Just let me have this, okay?

This crazy school year being over means three other things, though:

  1. More time to spend with you, the fine people of the Bloggy-verse.
  2. Working on the shift from being the one nobody’s noticing at the front of the class to one of the many in seats playing on Facebook. Or as it’s known more colloquially, from teacher to student.
  3. Reading. Lots and lots of reading.

I’m going to spend a couple of posts focusing on that third one (well, and the first one, obviously) because it’s summer and I’m about to go get all doctored in literature, so it just makes sense. And I don’t need to justify my reasons for posting this stuff anyway. It’s my party and I’ll talk about books if I want to.

WhenIFirstHeldYouA couple weeks ago, I got a package in the mail courtesy of Brian Gresko*, who I know from the DadBloggers Facebook group. It should be no surprise to you by this point in the post that inside was a book—one he edited, in fact, called When I First Held You. It’s an anthology of essays on fatherhood by a bunch of critically acclaimed authors. It came out yesterday, and now that grading’s done, I finally got a chance to read it.

*First, I’ll just say that Gresko is already pretty awesome in my book because his son’s name is Felix, and that’s my kid’s name. So you already know he’s got taste.

Probably my favorite book on fatherhood is by one of my favorite authors—Michael Chabon’s Manhood for Amateurs. It’s not entirely about being a dad, but it factors into large parts of the book, so I feel comfortable saying it’s about fatherhood. I find it interesting and strange to read what an author whose work I admire so much has to say about being a dad. When you come to enjoy an author’s work, frequently it’s because you’re drawn to something in that work you can identify with; somewhere inside your head, you’re saying, “Me too,” and “I get that,” and “That’s so true.” And often you don’t stop to think necessarily about that author as a person and about those other ways in which you also connect to them.

I’d read many of the authors in When I First Held You previously, and—like with Chabon’s book—I hadn’t really considered that other part of their lives, the part away from the keyboard full of peanut butter sandwiches and Target runs and squeezing little feet into little shoes. So I enjoyed that this book gave the chance to experience, particularly as someone who fancies himself in the same profession as these admittedly more successful gentlemen, that other side of the writing life—the one that doesn’t always show up on the pages of novels, at least not overtly.

Much in the way I do with those novels I go back to time and time again, I found myself doing the same internal agreement dance. When Lev Grossman says, “[T]here’s no point in holding things back. Babies don’t hold anything back. […] You can’t bullshit a baby,” I nod my head. When Ben Percy says, “Becoming a parent fundamentally changed my vision. I cannot help but see the world in sharp angles. I walk into a room and itemize the woodstove, the electrical socket, the scissors, the open window, the bottle of bleach—whatever can hurt. Everything’s a hazard,” my alligator brain answers back, “Me too.”

This book is full of moments like these, where the authors manage to pin down the myriad of quirks and joys and failures of being a parent. That might be one of the traps held in a book like this—these moments are incredibly beholden to the audience they’re reaching. To the childless, the essays in the book might feel a little self-indulgent or mundane. Talking about the existential crises of becoming a parent is fairly hard to pull off in a way that’s enjoyable to those who haven’t experienced it, and many of the authors in When I First Held You manage to do just that. But in the hands of a parent, these essays are a series of co-conspiratorial nods to the reader that cut right to the heart of what it means to be in the care of a little life-changing being. Poignant, engaging, and frequently on-the-nose, the essays in this book are well-crafted and thoughtful reflections on probably the most ubiquitous of life-changing experiences.

The one glaring knock on the anthology is the relative lack of diversity in the authors presented—of the 22 fathers, 18 are straight, white men, though there are some divorced guys in there to provide a little variation in perspective. This certainly isn’t a knock on the quality of the writing, which is largely great. With any anthology, there are certainly some entries that are stronger than others, though this one is full of such high caliber writers that it’s hard to find a true weak point in the writing itself.

I did enjoy the chance to learn new authors I might enjoy, especially in the light of seeing them as a dad first. My favorite was Ben Greenman’s “You Can’t Put Your Arms Around a Memory,” which tackles the very idea of what parenthood means and laments the myriad of things you won’t remember no matter how much you want to keep it all. I definitely appreciated the essays by Dennis Lehane and Ben Percy for both their resolute honesty and the way they changed the way I see those writers in my head.

Though When I First Held You is a book by dads, it’s certainly not exclusively for dads. Parents, regardless of genitalia, will identify with the men who wrote this book, their many worries and challenges, and—ultimately—the mixed bag of emotions that come along with the raising of children.

Next time, I’ll talk about books some more, but I’ll get Squatch’s help. Stay tuned.

& hide-n-seek

Karli thinks this is funny. I’m starting to sense a conspiracy.

She’s at that point in the pregnancy where she can feel Squatch kicking a bunch. Both inside and outside when she has her hands on her stomach. She said that the other night she could even see the baby moving its leg or something from the outside. She’ll tell me that the baby’s going crazy in there. Like it’s Soul Train up in this uterus.

“Come here and feel this,” she’ll say.

So I toddle on over and put my hand on her stomach.

Nothing.

“Is it still kicking around and I just don’t have my hand in the right place?” I’ll ask.

“No, it’s not moving anymore.” Bummer. So I take my hand away and as soon as I do, she’ll say, “There it goes again.” I replace my hand.

Nothing.

I’ve gotten into the habit of reading to Squatch, too. Usually at night, when it’s pretty frisky and moving around in there, I’ll grab one of the few kids’ books we have and do some storytime. It’s my quality time. Karli likes it because as soon as I start talking, Squatch goes into silent mode. Basically, my presence is like Ambien.

I’ve come to the conclusion that Karli and Squatch have been plotting. They think it’s hilarious to hide when Dad comes in the room. This is their little form of entertainment.

So it begins.

Good god, what have I gotten myself into?