Inexplicable Loves, Explicated: A Series

Ode to a strange book:

Except that I'm not much an ode writer, nor much of a poet (not really any of a poet, what with my lack of compression and general heart-tearing conflicts about language, which is perhaps a story for another day). So what did I really want to say? I wanted to say that there is yet another book that we have loved over time, and I don't know why except to say: Who is fool enough to try to explain the logic of love?

At any rate: this.

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I mean, perhaps it can be explained by the fact that they were very little, and still acquiring language.

But that can't possibly fully explain its allure. What the heck is it about this book that made it so compelling? We would look at it for hours. Hours! Pages would come and go into vogue: Animals. Things in the kitchen. Food. Was it the fleeting and wistful belief that the world could be organized into a neat and comprehensible form? Was it the recognizability of it all? "Hey, that's a carrot! I've seen that before!"

There were long, pleasant afternoons contemplating the children on the "Moving" page: the girl jumping. Hopping. Above. Below.

There was the existential moment when we wondered, Where are these kids now, and looked to the pub date and realized they could be walking among us right now, but we would never know, because they were adults.

We started with this book when Diana was…two? Read it steadily for years, it died, got another one, it died, got one in French (!), it died. We loved this book.

It says something strange and mournful and beautiful about people that every child I have ever known has responded so powerfully (and inexplicably) to this book.

If you have someone small in your house, you should try this with them: it is a strange and particular pleasure.

5 thoughts on “Inexplicable Loves, Explicated: A Series

  1. This was definitely one of my kids’ favorites too. We spent hours and hours pointing out items. I think part of the appeal was the eccentric European-ness of it. “Cookie” was “biscuit” and there were several other alternative names for things.
    I would give this to anyone with a very small child. I love the idea of having it in French too!

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  2. Our house is enchanted with the Firefly Junior Visual Dictionary. It’s definitely for kids, not toddlers, but the array of drawings are fascinating and seemingly comprehensive.

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  3. I used this for hours and hours and hours with a kid I babysat for a million years ago. I should have gotten it for my daughter and somehow I never did… I suppose she’s too old for it now. Sad.

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  4. I know this is an older post, but I feel like I should comment and thank you for recommending this book. I ordered it for my developmentally disabled 7-year-old, to help work on her vocabulary. She loves looking through it and saying the words with me. I think it will be a great resource. Also, when it arrived, my 9-year-old and I spent a lovely hour together paging through the book. It really does have some sort of magic appeal that I can’t explain. Thanks for the recommendation!

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