Thursday, February 26, 2009

Firemen in Congress

The unabated progress of the overreaction-to-headlines CPSIA should sicken the heart of any lover of older children's books.
It’s hard to believe, but true: under a law Congress passed last year aimed at regulating hazards in children’s products, the federal government has now advised that children’s books published before 1985 should not be considered safe and may in many cases be unlawful to sell or distribute. Merchants, thrift stores, and booksellers may be at risk if they sell older volumes, or even give them away, without first subjecting them to testing—at prohibitive expense. Many used-book sellers, consignment stores, Goodwill outlets, and the like have accordingly begun to refuse new donations of pre-1985 volumes, yank existing ones off their shelves, and in some cases discard them en masse.
Surely you wouldn't endanger your children's minds, I mean bodies, by permitting a book published before 1985 to fall into their little hands. What was the year before that, when books suddenly qualified as hazardous to the young? It's almost as if Congress were aiming for symbolic significance.

Since the law became effective the very next day, there was no time to waste in putting this advice into practice. A commenter at Etsy, the large handicrafts and vintage-goods site, observed how things worked at one store:

I just came back from my local thrift store with tears in my eyes! I watched as boxes and boxes of children’s books were thrown into the garbage! Today was the deadline and I just can’t believe it! Every book they had on the shelves prior to 1985 was destroyed! I managed to grab a 1967 edition of “The Outsiders” from the top of the box, but so many!
I'm so glad we've already stocked our shelves with high-quality pre-1985 literature--much of it nearly certain never to be reprinted, as it will never again be popular enough in American culture to make reprinting cost-effective. The local public library is having a big sell-off this Saturday. We'll see if pre-1985 children's books are available, or if the book ban has already been implemented here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Lincoln's Birthday

Today is the birthday of our sixteenth president. Now you could wait another week for the lame congressionally invented excuse for a three-day weekend called "President's Day," or you can celebrated individual actual presidents and their individual actual achievements on their individual actual birthdays. We at the Opinionated Household opt for the latter, as you probably've guessed. (If I ever write a post on 10 Reasons We Go To The Latin Mass, this principle will be one of the reasons: Holidays, Feast Days, and Commemorations have meanings which are usually linked to their day of celebration. Call me old-fashioned, but I like to celebrate Ascension Thursday on Thursday--40 days after the Resurrection--and not on the following Sunday. Etc. But I digress.)

So if today is Lincoln's Birthday at your house too, here are a few resources we like. Please add your own, for any age up to and including adult. I need a good adult work on Lincoln to read.

Offspring #2 likes her old Step Up to Reading book, Meet Abraham Lincoln. It's still in print, but is now somewhat confusingly listed in the Landmark Books series, which great old series was originally intended for the middle school ages. In fact there are two Landmark books for older readers: Abe Lincoln: Log Cabin to White House, which is in reprint, and Lincoln and Douglas: The Years of Decision, which unfortunately is not.

O2 this year moved up to Ingri D'Aulaire's Abraham Lincoln, heavily illustrated in the D'Aulaires' distinctive style. And we sang a round of "Old Abe Lincoln" from her Wee Sing America CD, which song by the way is how I happened to know that he was the sixteenth president without having to look that up on Wikipedia.

And Offspring #1? She's still finishing up Ferdinand and Isabella, but I think next it would be good for her to read Carl Sandburg on Lincoln.

Offspring #3 will have to be content for now with sucking on pennies.

Other Abraham Lincoln resources which I don't have, but wish I did and have been assured are good:

Abraham Lincoln's World. Genevieve Foster. Gives the broader historical context of what was going on world-wide in the mid-nineteenth century.

Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator. From the Chidhood of Famous Americans series.

Other suggestions?