Once a month, a robin’s-egg-blue box arrives at our house. “Mama! Mama! My books are here!” shouts my six-year-old daughter as she runs from the front door to the kitchen. We open the box to find personalized stickers, bookmarks, posters, and sometimes coloring pages or little paper games. The box also contains five new books, which may be kept or sent back. My daughter opens each one and pronounces on its merits. Sometimes the pictures are scary—monsters, bugs, slime, witches—and this is enough for a quick rejection. Other books have too many words per page, which can be a deal-breaker for a child just learning to read.
I have learned that children’s books come in various categories. True, our book club is highbrow. We never receive books about princesses, bodily functions, or Disney characters. We occasionally find a beautiful picture book about a day at the seashore or the discovery of a pond in the back meadow. Sometimes we even get a book that is poignantly conservative, like the beautiful Hello Lighthouse. Still, the club might best be described as exemplifying the ethos of National Public Radio, only for kids.