Monday, November 5, 2012

Book Review- Preschool Gems

In the interest of full-disclosure, I offered to review the book Preschool Gems: Love, Death, Magic and Other Surprising Treasures from the Mouths of BabesIn return, the author, Leslie McCollom, arranged to have a review copy sent to me. I've followed Leslie's Twitter feed @preschoolgems for over a year now, and I was excited to have the opportunity to see her work collected into a book.

"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." -Pablo Picasso

When I was in college, I wanted to become a poet. That is, until I found this weird little book titled Miracles: Poems by Children of the English- Speaking World. Whatever shot I had at pursuing a career in poetry was broken the day I opened that book because I was confronted with a clear sense of the gap between the simple, visceral imagery of children and the muddied, entangled language in my own work.

Kids are less-nuanced, but their language goes right to the heart of experience. I think this is because, for them, experience is so immediate. Over time, my ability to feel (and therefore write) like a child had been educated out of me. For a poet, this is a problem. Now I realize, I approached this equation in the wrong way. One does not become a poet. One remains a poet. I did not. I became a teacher instead. Now I try not to educate the artists out of children.

I mention all of this by way of introducing Leslie McCollom's delightful book, Preschool Gems: Love, Death, Magic and Other Surprising Treasures from the Mouths of Babes. This book is another stunning reminder of how powerfully creative and clear children's minds can be. I'm so jealous.

I first discovered Leslie McCollum via Twitter when someone I follow retweeted one of her amazing @preschoolgems tweets. I should explain that Leslie had the remarkable insight to realize that the preschoolers she teaches say magical things worthy of sharing with the world, so she shares them. In her own words, Leslie started Preschool Gems "because every time I forgot one of their dazzling quotes, it felt like a precious jewel had slipped through my fingers." I am grateful that she decided to do something about that, and her book is the result of her insight and stewardship.

In form, the book is a curated collection of some of the best quotes from her Twitter feed, organized into topics like "Having a Body," "Love and Friendship," and "Make Believe." I've struggled with how to share the power of this book without stealing from the reader the delight of enjoying each quote in context, so I'm going to give just ten reasons why I love this book, each with a single accompanying quote:
  1. I love this book because kids' logic accepts no prisoners, and refuses to be bullied by cold, hard facts: "You wanna know how I know fairies are real? Because I'm a fairy."
  2. I love this book because kids understand that we are more than our physical selves: "I've got the prettiest silly that you've ever seen."
  3. I love this book because kids speak cruel truths via amazing metaphors: "When wolves die they turn into dogs."
  4. I love this book because kids aren't limited to the classifications we learn in school: "You know what happens when you put feet and arms together? Feetarms."
  5. I love this book because kids recognize the magic in all of us: "I'm just a guy with pixie dust."
  6. I love this book because kids make complicated human motivations uncomplicated: "I had an accident. I did it on purpose."
  7. I love this book because kids know the power of Zen riddles: "OK, you guys are never gonna guess this so I'm just gonna tell you: basketball candies."
  8. I love this book because kids know what matters: "I don't care about time-outs. I only care about my life."
  9. I love this book because kids have a healthy sense of their own greatness: "You should be aware of my pretty moves."
  10. I love this book because it gives me hope: "Some teachers get littler and littler till they're kids."
I truly recommend this book (as well as Leslie's Twitter feed) as a restorative for those times when you know in your heart that the grown-up world is making things unnecessarily complicated and boring. Perhaps it will bring you philosophical clarity. Perhaps it will connect you with your inner-magic. Perhaps it will remind you about what and who matter in your your world. At minimum, you'll laugh a lot and get a bit littler in the process.



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