My extended family has a new baby – not in the Mennonite side of the family but still, it has me thinking of baby books and nursery rhymes.
And how sad it is that Mennonites don’t really have our own. Sure, Mennomedia has a small collection of Bible stories, modern parables and Mennonite history books for children. But they’re meant for somewhat older children and I don’t think any of them come in board book format.
In a plain green room
There was a telephone
And a red hymn book
And a picture of
A martyr being drowned in a brook
When my children were little, we had a little stack of board books and picture books that we read over and over again, on demand. They were books with numbers and rhymes and drawn illustrations. They were books like “Good Night, Moon” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” They weren’t morality tales or Bible stories. And there wasn’t a martyr to be seen in any of the pages.
And there were three unfinished quilts
Causing much guilt
And a hand of Rook
And a coat hook
The “classics” that I read to my babies were written before I was born but they weren’t a part of my childhood. My family was not averse to book-learning but not being early adopters, we stuck to books published at least twenty years earlier. Although board books were certainly on the market in my day, they weren’t all the rage when I was a toddler – a luxury when perfectly good paper books had served generations before perfectly well. And so I was raised on Little Golden Books.
And a set of Dutch Blitz
And a Koop and a Goosen and a bowl full of moos, and
A little old lady, who’d suffered abuse
And my mother considered the Little Golden Books a nice tame alternative to the Grimm fairy tales that had given her nightmares as a child.
Goodnight martyr being drowned in a brook
And the red hymn book
Those, at least, were the worldly books that I read.
I also received a Church-approved book every year from the Sunday School program (thanks, Church-of-my-childhood for caring about my literacy!). These were floppy paperback Bible stories made in a particular picture book format that I think might be unique to Church publishing. Worldly picture books were usually hard cover with glossy pages but these reflected our frugality and were more like upscale pamphlets than books. But still, they were books and I read them. I remember them as having drawn illustrations of happy crowds of white people in robes who followed Jesus around.
Goodnight Kruger clocks
Goodnight mended socks
But that’s not the kind of book that I am wishing for in my quest for a Mennonite-ish board book. Herald Press does a great job of putting out inspirational children’s stories that drive home a moral lesson with all the subtlety of a thumbscrew. But where are the Menno-themed baby books that seek only to teach children numbers, colours and shapes? Admittedly, All The Colours of the Hymn Books could be confusing to young children but no one can deny that Where’s Dirk Willems? would be every bit as exciting as Where’s Spot? (spoiler: he’s gone back to save the bailiff). And doesn’t Dirk deserve a moment of board book fame?
Goodnight moos and
Good night to the old lady who’d suffered abuse
And, I ask, how, oh how have Mennonite babies managed to get to sleep without ever having been read, Good-night, Menno?
Goodnight Mennos everywhere
The Snow Herald
In the absence of a good Mennonite bedtime story, warm milk is also a traditionally useful sleep aid. This milk cocktail is a variation on the Snow Honey, paying homage to Herald Press in the title in the hopes that having a cocktail named after them will persuade the editors there of the need to add some cheeky Mennonite board books to their book list.
I’ve subbed in maple syrup for the honey and used bourbon instead of the traditional brandy.
- 1 1/2 oz bourbon
- 1 1/2 tsp maple syrup
- 4 oz hot milk
- grated nutmeg
Combine bourbon, maple syrup and hot milk in a heavy glass or mug. Top with nutmeg.