An explanation concerning Behowl the Moon: An Ageless Story from Midsummer Night's Dream
I love words. But that makes me picky about them. I reconsider, inspect, overanalyze, and play. That's one of the reasons I get so exited about board books: stripped of the complexity of adult language, board books tell a story with the minimum of words chosen for the maximum effect. It really is like poetry, only telling a story instead of examining a moment.
There are dozens of board books that are works of art. And there are hundreds that are works of useful competence. And there are so, so few that are worth thinking about as many times as the parent of a small book-lover is going to read them.
It was maybe when I realized that I could read every single bedtime book on the shelf with my eyes closed in the dark that I decided I wanted to do something about it.
Step one was blow a bunch of money on more bedtime books.
Step two was to look for something I wanted to memorize, something that I could contemplate with my half-bored, half-exhausted brain as the sky turns pink and the sun sinks down low.
I thought surely someone would have put together a baby story around some of the famous classic poetry of the English language. Not necessarily my favorite poetry, or the most trendy, but something from the days when poetry was much more popular entertainment, lines rhymed, and there were lots of concrete images that could be turned into a narrative for the lapdweller. Just something a little weightier to slip in between Pat the Bunny and Llama Llama Red Pajama and entertain both of us board book critics.
I couldn't find it, so I'm making it.
I chose a section of A Midsummer Night's Dream that has well-known verse, a simple rhyme scheme, the excuse to make great animal noises, and a loose connectivity that can be turned into a story with action, conflict, and resolution.
The story part is important to me. I believe in the power of story to educate, to entertain; to expand the imagination and make repetition more meaningful. And I think story has far more staying power than "educational" content.
If there are other people who want this kind of choice on their shelves too, I want to make it available. I want to chip away at the idea that reading to small children is a sacrificial "should" on one hand or a gambol through a garden of one-syllable delight on the other. Reading to our babies is one more thing we do for them that's better if we all enjoy it. And as great as the funny books and the absurd books and the tongue-twister books are, when we're winding down from a long day, a little Elizabethan idle dreaming is a nice way to round it out.
I hope this project does well. I hope it helps other people who feel the same way. I hope the art speaks to aesthetes of all ages and the story introduces little listeners to how outright fun language can be, even in a less casual register.
But I am most looking forward to getting this book into my own hot little hands, and having it to share with my kid.