The Kid’s Book You’ve Got to Read
October 17, 2012
© Simon & Schuster
One of the many ways Nick totally rocks as a husband and a dad: He takes the kids to the library regularly to pick out new books. And he researches cool and interesting titles before going. This started after he realized there was no time for quietly browsing the aisles with our two in tow (he’d end up grabbing whatever was on display and we’d often be stuck with crap bedtime reading material, like an encyclopedia-like book on rocks—yawn). I love putting the kids to bed after one of their library trips and seeing the new and interesting books they picked out. Nick’s latest find:
The Hungry Coat by Demi.Have you guys read this? Love!It’s a story about Nasrettin Hoca, an actual Turkish philosopher who lived in the 13th Century (he was apparently very wise and very funny—a timeless and winning combo). In The Hungry Coat, Hoca goes to his friend’s swanky dinner party wearing shabby, stinky clothes (he rescued a crazed goat on his way over and had no time to change—such was life back in the day) and his host is embarrassed by Hoca’s appearance. Nobody talks to him, nobody looks at him, and nobody serves him any of the amazing food laid out for the feast. Eventually Hoca sneaks home to bathe and put on his finest duds (including a spanking-new red silk coat with golden threads). When he returns to the party he’s greeted like a damn celebrity. Everyone wants to talk to him, to look at him and to pass him food. But Hoca doesn’t buy it. Instead he stuffs lamb chops and pilaf and tons of other delicious-sounding food down his coat saying, “Eat, coat, eat.” Everyone is confused until Hoca explains: “Surely you wanted my coat to eat. When I first arrived in my old coat made of patches upon patches, there was no food for me. Yet when I came back in this new coat, there was every kind of food for me. This shows it was the coat—and not me—that you invited to your banquet.”
Awesome, right?* I love the story because it’s told in a simple, straightforward way—even Nora, who’s two and a half, can follow it without getting distracted. And it has some rhythm and repetition, which I always appreciate in a bedtime book (makes it easier to get the words out when you’re tired!). It gives the kids a peek at a different culture and, yes, it doesn’t hurt that the story features food. I can’t help salivating at the fish fried in vine leaves, roasted eggplant and boiled squash stuffed with hash and olives—and sticky baklava, dates and persimmons. I’m seriously getting Turkish food next time I’m in NYC (I’d like to cook a Turkish-inspired feast with Alex in honor of our new favorite book but, well, mama has deadlines these days). The story is also genuinely funny—Hoca literally feeds his coat. What kid wouldn’t love hearing that and seeing the gorgeous, gold-inflected illustrations that go along with it? Alex laughs the loudest when Hoca pours an entire bottle of wine on himself. Now when one of us (Nora or Alex, occasionally me) spills on ourselves at our dinner table, someone usually jokes, “eat, shirt, eat.”
The best part, of course, is the great lesson—that we shouldn’t judge a person by their clothes. The moral of the story is not heavy-handed, like in some books (as a kid, I remember being turned off by books that were so openly preachy) but it shines through. And we try to drive that point home with Alex. If he can laugh out loud, learn about a different culture and absorb a vital life lesson all from the same book, well, that’s a library homerun to me. Well done, Nick! We read a lot in our house and I’ll admit some of it is done on autopilot (I can recite 90 percent of the books Nora picks out at bedtime) so when a book really strikes a chord with me and the kids, I get excited. And I want to share it. So, if you’re looking for a great read for your family (I’d recommend this for ages 3 to 7 but even an older kid could appreciate it) definitely check out The Hungry Coat. I’ll be buying a copy for us to own—stocking stuffer!—which I’ve done with some of our other library faves (Hooper Humperdink—Not Him!, The Gruffalo, Tale of a Tail, to name a few).
Would love to hear about your favorite kid’s book these days. What have you read lately that you’d recommend? We’re always looking for new ideas!
*Embarrassing confession: I never would have picked out a book like this, based on the cover and font (I am completely guilty of judging kid’s books by their covers, which, in this case, is kind of hilarious).
Speaking of books, I have a cool offer I want to share with you that involves the opposite of a kid’s book—a juicy novel about love and dating. My friend Jo Piazza is currently writing Love Rehab: A Novel in 12 Steps and she wants to hear about the craziest thing you’ve ever done in a relationship. Email your confessions to GimmeLoveRehab@gmail.com and you’ll be entered to win a $250 gift card to Juicy Couture among other awesome prizes. And, get this, the best story will be featured in the book! Get all the details!