Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers. ~Charles W. Eliot

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Take Comfort

Here's a cool fact - Linus Van Pelt of the Peanuts cartoon strip (he with the ever-present blue blanket) actually coined the phrase "security blanket"? We all remember the blanket but I have to admit that I never considered the conundrum before - what came first, the comic or the blanket? Linus, of course, was super smart but I didn't know he was responsible for naming his obsession. I think it's pretty impressive that Charles M. Schultz, the comic strip's creator, created this quirky and lovably nuanced character. Linus was attached to his blanket and his thumb and he was a little nerdy and often waxed philosophic but Linus was also a chick magnet! Security blankets can be cool.

Whether it's a blanket or a favorite stuffed animal, many kids have them. Their calming effect is unmistakable. The irony lies in the inordinate amount of stress they can cause parents who dare to consider what might happen if the child loses their comfort object or it dies a natural death.. The young son of our close friends had a little doll they named Nino. His parents bought 10 or more of the exact same doll and put them in a rotation so the wear and tear was even throughout the collection. Nino survived intact until the child was ready to move on. Most of us are not that organized so we keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best. In our home, it's Berly, short for Berlioz, named after the gray cat in the Aristocats, which was one of our oldest daughters favorite movies when she was little Berly began life with our then 10-month old baby girl as a plump and fluffy gray cat. She's now nearly fifteen and he'd be skin and bones if he had any bones; so he's pretty much just skin. When she was around 3 years old, we inadvertently left him behind on a trip to Montreal to visit my parents. Needless to say, my mom had to fedex the raggedy cat back to us the very next day. Truth be told, we all feel a little more secure when Berly is around.

Comfort objects can be relied upon to get a child through the challenges he or she faces. One of the favorite new books around my office these days is Eileen Rosenthal's I Must Have Bobo, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal.The security toy in this book is a sock monkey named Bobo. I'm not sure if I love the book because of the fact that the obsessional object is a sock monkey or if it's because of the way the little boy relies on his sock monkey or maybe because the little boy's gray cat (who bears a striking resemblance to Berly) is a rival for Bobo's affections. The combination just works and by the end of the book, you'll be thinking you must have Bobo too!

A review of favorite toys would be incomplete without paying due homage to Mo Willems' already classic Knuffle Bunny trilogy (for those not in the loop, the "K" is not silent). The series stars a young girl named Trixie (which just happens to be the name of Mo's daughter) and her beloved Knuffle Bunny. The entire series is built around the notion of a favorite toy and the different, horrible things that can separate it from its young owne and the lengths to which parents will go to reunite the two. In the third book in the series, Knuffle Bunny Free: An Unexpected Diversion, Trixie leaves Knuffle Bunny on an airplane. Face it folks, if you haven't been there, you've no doubt imagined what it would be like. And it isn't pretty!

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