When I was younger, I made many promises, like last month or so, when I promised to share some of our favorite and least favorite baby items. The time for sharing has finally come, and I’m starting off with one of 3B’s most favorite product lines, the Amazing Baby books.
3B’s ability to both enjoy his first tender steps into the world of literacy and simultaneously manage his brand-name loyalty amaze me. He likes these books more than any other books that we have. Sure, he’s having a bit of a fling now with Goodnight Moon, and he was seen curling up in an easy chair with the Lady with the Alligator Purse a few days back, but those are only temporary distractions. 3B only has eyes for the Amazing Baby books, although he does read more and less of various titles from time to time, depending on his mood and how far under his crib he’s flung them.
Mama and I share his love for these books. Our general rule is that anything that gets 3B to enjoy reading is worth reading, and 3B loves reading these books. These are the books that he learned to turn pages with, in part because he couldn’t wait to get to the next page and, when he got to the end, he couldn’t wait to start again. In addition, these are among the only books in which 3B focuses on the words first, then looks at the picture. I checked because I was sure that his fascination with these was due to the large pictures of baby faces on almost every page, and that, while fascinating to him, they wouldn’t be much good at teaching him about language, since they were essentially picture books. When I watched him as I turned each page, however, I saw that he would study the words, then look at the picture for a moment before going back to gaze at the words. Perfect.
Except one little thing. Or one big thing, if your daddy is an editor, as 3B’s daddy is–subject-verb agreement.
The trouble starts with an innocent little splash–“splish splash,” to be precise–at the beginning of Five Fish. From those first two words, the reader is taken on an amazing journey through a sea filled with first one, then two, then three, then four, then five–five!–fish. The pacing is exhilarating to behold from one page to the next, keeping the reader’s eyes agog with each plot twist (who knew that after two fish, there would be three?), keeping the reader sucking his thumb at a furious pace, and keeping the reader grasping for the next page as he races for the inevitable denouement. But it is that conclusion, these four words, that ends up destroying all that came before it:
Now there’s no fish!
No. No there aren’t. Now there are no fish, damnit.
Sure, part of the fun of this book, and of One Fish, Two Fish, is that the word “fish” can be either singular or plural, which is why the phrase “one fish, two fish” makes sense, unlike “one car, two car.” But in this final sentence in Five Fish, “fish” is plural, which means that it requires the use of a plural verb. Just as you wouldn’t say “there is no cars” you can’t correctly say “there is no fish.”
And yet, that’s exactly what I have to say, if I read this book verbatim, because “there’s” is a contraction of “there” and “is.” That’s as grating to me as if the book ended with the sentence, “Now there is no rules for reading and writing.” OK, that wouldn’t make much sense in a book about five fish, but neither does this grammar faux pas in this one book in what is, overall, an excellent collection, in the refined taste of one nine-month old boy, anyway. But even that slip-up doesn’t stop a word geek like me from recommending them as good books for a baby that are also fun for the parents to read.
Besides, it’s not a big problem, since 3B will have outgrown this book by the time he figures out that his old man isn’t actually reading the words on the page. By then, he’ll be on to age-appropriate fare, like, “Curious George Gets Kidnapped from His Native Ecosystem by the Imperialist Oppressor.” Think he’ll ever figure out that that’s not the real title?