Reading to my son, or: How I Became Mr. Brown.

BOOM BOOM BOOM, Mr. Brown is a wonder. BOOM BOOM BOOM, Mr. Brown makes thunder. – Dr. Seuss, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?

My 10-month-old son is beginning to show an interest in books.

Since before he was born, I have stocked the bookshelf in his nursery with all of the books that I remember reading – and loving – when I myself was a child. In my excitement for future days reading to him, I got online and ordered Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Then I ordered The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales by Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. Soon after that, my wife brought home the obligatory slew of Dr. Seuss books. They all sat on the shelf, spines colorful and bright, waiting for their turn as the nightly bedtime book of choice.

Except that we didn’t have my favorite Dr. Seuss book of all time. I tried to resist buying it, telling myself that we already had a fine selection of books for any developing infant mind, but my brain wouldn’t let go of the idea that we just had to have The Butter Battle Book.

So I bought that one, too.

And then I bought The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, because I remembered the over-sized cover and the large painted images. I remembered enough of the book to know that the story was beautifully sad, but not enough of it to recall that there is entirely too much text on each page to hold the attention of a baby.

I bought other books as well, and even now I have a list of children’s books that I still “need” to buy. All of the books that I loved as a child, I want to share those with my son and impress my nostalgic love for them onto him.

And yet, while I have focused on the books that will spark his future four- or five- or six-year-old imagination, he has been busy creating his own love for particular books. There are no board books that I can specifically recall being favorites of mine, but my 10-month-old son most definitely already has favorites of his own.

His mother, almost daily, reads him Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr. and Eric Carle. He laughs at each turn of the page, as mommy emphatically calls out the next creature that is “seen”. A red bird or a green frog; a blue horse or a black sheep. He sits in her lap and anticipates the next reveal by tilting his head to the right, hoping to get the earliest possible glimpse of each page.

Today, I climbed into his play area and sat down with him, centered on the foam mat lining the floor. I sat my son in my lap, and we read another Dr. Seuss classic, Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? Each page requires the engaged reader to make the silly noises – dibble dop, dibble dibble dop – that Mr. Brown is able to make, and as I formed a new voice for each one my son giggled hard enough that his hitches went silent and he gasped for breath before the turn of each page. His laughter would cause him to topple over sideways, leaving him leaning against my outstretched leg and scrambling to get upright again, before the next page – and the next sound.

He looked up at me, a big half-toothy grin, and leaned his head back into my chest. He is only 10 months old, and is still trying to figure out this whole daddy’s words are connected to the book idea, but at that moment I was happily aware that while mommy was the one that read Brown Bear, maybe it was daddy who got to be Mr. Brown.

And in my son’s mind – BOOM BOOM BOOM – Mr. Brown was a wonder.

Mr. Brown

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