Friday, March 12, 2010

“What Do You Want?”

By Lars Klinting
ISBN No. 978-0-88899-988-7

There’s a kind of children’s book that I call the “piece together” genre. It’s probably the most common kind of kid’s book; the kindergarten-starter book that shows how something fits with something else. “What Do You Want?” is a new addition to the “piece together” genre – but with a twist. But first a little background. Normally, I just leaf through these kinds of books to see how easily their lessons in pairing can be absorbed by a child’s eyes. But as I was reading “What Do You Want?” my mind wandered away from the etiquette lesson for newborns (i.e. chairs have to go with tables) and started to wonder about the very nature of wanting and pairing in a world where nothing is guaranteed anymore. For instance, on one page of the book is a picture of a bumblebee. The next page shows what it wants: a flower. The text says as much: “The bumble wants…[turn the page] its flower.” There. Done. But in that example arise all sorts of messy philosophical wanderings about instinct, desire, fate, and free will. Sigh… On a brighter note, of course everything in the book makes sense and is beautifully rendered in daydreamy watercolours. But as you read about all this wanting in a world of increasingly limited resources you begin to realize the book is more than just a lesson in pairing alike things. There’s a poignancy to the simplicity of this book. Read through it a couple of times and you’ll learn something important; you’ll slowly realize that contentment – real achievable contentment – already exists all around us.