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My First 'Useless' Words
by Asa Butcher
2007-01-06 10:22:56
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It was only a matter of time before I exchanged adult literature for bedtime stories and educational books, but it has opened a new dimension between father and daughter to such an extent that Daddy’s job is the reading. Every night, as part of her bedtime routine, my daughter will bring her entire library to the settee and we will jump back and forth between her favourites.

At Christmas she received a few new editions to replace the torn and chewed offerings we currently flick through. Some were a little too old for her, but there were two that impressed me when I began flicking through their solid cardboard pages. Tough endurable pages are a necessity if you want the book to survive the first nighttime tantrum or not break apart following its use as a teething toy, plus they are wipe-clean and have rounded edges.

The two book series is called My First Words and was published by Anker Publishing & Entertainment in 2005. The first book is entitled ‘Objects’ and is excellent in its content. The first six pages features eight different items per two-page spread and the images mix between real photographs and cartoons.

This combination works very well, especially with the sweet cartoon animals and simplified transportation. Toys, drawing, bath time, wardrobe and bits and bobs are superbly done with useful objects featured, while the alphabet, numbers to ten, colours and shapes also appear in brightly designed layouts that are easy to follow.

The other book is entitled ‘Food’ and is a disgrace to educational books. It almost follows the same style as its sister book, but should really find a cigarette lighter and commit a fiery suicide. I feel a little guilty at rushing the review of the excellent ‘Objects’ book, but my disbelief at the other book could be contained no longer.

Half of the other book was cartoon, ‘Food’ has two double-page spreads, but I am getting ahead of myself. The book begins on a positive note, possibly lulling you into a false sense of security, by starting with six items of fruit. A healthy start and a good chance to show your child what an apple, an orange, a strawberry, grapes, a pineapple and glazed cherries look like. Yes, glazed cherries with no stalks…bear with me.

Page two continues the health theme by picturing six vegetables. Ok, now it gets weird. Name six vegetables. Did you say ‘potato’? What about ‘carrot’? I’m sure ‘radish’ appeared in your top six. No? Well, this book bizarrely chooses to ignore the two most popular vegetables and goes for a radish. Yes, the thing we all leave at the side of a salad because it has teeth. At least a tomato and lettuce made an appearance, although that means there won’t be a salad section in this children’s guide to food words.

Page three and the book has found its niche. We have cakes, six of them all pictured in all their photographic glory. Iced bun, doughnut, chocolate cake, butterfly cake (what? We get that but no potato?), chocolate éclair and iced finger bun are all there. The page has made me feel a bit sick, so I escape to page four…

Biscuits. Ha, ‘Biscuits’ is the page title! We have seven types of biscuit listed and pictured, so just close your eyes and imagine your child’s first words include ‘iced shortie’, ‘jam biscuit’ and ‘iced bun’ (hang on, has that one sneaked in from the previous page?). Now my teeth are beginning to hurt from too much sugar, please give me a break…

Party time! Hooray, oh crap! ‘Boiled sweets’, ‘lolly pop’ (spelt incorrectly), ‘jelly babies’ (I feel a spot forming on my cheek), ‘birthday cake’ and a ‘fairy cake’ (is this guy obsessed by cakes?) are all considered vital first words for a growing child. I have just brushed my teeth and swallowed a glass of water because my body just can’t handle three double-pages of sugary crap.

A reprieve! It’s teatime and time for some proper food. So, what’s on the menu? Hmm, they offer a burger, a fish finger, a waffle, a ham sandwich made with white bread and a pizza. Hold on, is that a salad hiding in the bottom right hand corner (ahh, crafty, they stuck it all on one plate and saved a page). Fancy any of those? If you opted for the pizza, let me warn you that the photo actually resembles a splash of drunk’s vomit on a pavement.

Breakfast is next. Considering that it is the most important meal of the day, let’s see what words our kids will need to learn. ‘Jam on toast’, ‘boiled egg’ and ‘cereal’ are the three chosen, so not too bad considering the author could have opted for a Pop Tart. On the opposite side of the page is the ‘Breads’ section containing the essential ‘loaf of bread’ that every kid needs, ‘bagel’ (eh?) and ‘finger roll’ minus the hot dog thankfully.

For the love of God! Do we really need a two-page desert page? It seems we don’t have a choice, so if there are any dentists reading look away now. ‘Cheesecake’, ‘apple slice’, ‘meringue’, ‘pancake’, ‘rhubarb pie’ and ‘apple pie’, yet there is no ice cream, which is the epitome of children’s deserts.

I guess you are in need of something to wash down all that sugar, so you’ll be looking for something from the drinks page. A ‘strawberry milkshake’ perhaps, maybe a ‘fizzy drink’, ‘blackcurrant squash’ or ‘lemon squash’, a glass of cold ‘apple juice’ or ‘orange juice’. No? Let me check back here…hold on…yes, we do have either a ‘glass of milk’ or a ‘glass of water’, but don’t tell anybody.

No food book would be complete without a page dedicated to favourite foods, so why would this one be any different. However, this book even cheats you here by repeating five of the items already mentioned, including the misspelling of lollipop again, and introducing three final food words. Can you guess what they are? If you guessed ‘ice cream’, ‘jelly’ and ‘chocolate’ then you need a diet.

The final page tackles ‘Food objects’ essential to a young child’s growing vocabulary and these naturally include ‘beaker’, ‘spoon’, ‘bibs’, ‘bottle’ and ‘feeding bowl’. Why not just call it a bowl, instead of turning your child into a household pet? The same goes to ‘milk jug’, while ‘blender’ isn’t that important to a toddler and the grand finale goes to the final picture in the book.

We are presented with a photo of a fork on the left, a spoon at the top and a knife on the right. Everybody with any sense will immediately assume that the words being taught here are ‘fork’, ‘spoon’ and ‘knife’, but those paying attention will recall that ‘spoon’ has already been covered. What on earth could this final word be? What word do adults use on a daily basis? Hmmm…oh yes, now I remember clearly – ‘place setting’!

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CJ2009-05-18 22:10:16
Nearly paid 5 quid for this one, now I won't bother. Ta!

Asa2009-05-19 10:22:42
I am so glad you found this and saved your cash!

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