“Now she’s pregnant. Good move, Lula Ann. If you think mothering is all cooing, booties and diapers you’re in for a big shock. Big. You and your nameless boyfriend, husband, pickup – whatever – imagine OOOH! A baby! Kitchee kitchee koo!” (God Help the Child by Toni Morrison)
As I reflect upon my reading life, I realize that some of the most exquisitely pleasant reading experiences I’ve ever had have been with shorter works of fiction. Novels of just that perfect length – short enough to read in one sitting, but long enough to have some depth. I read Ocean at the End of the Lane outside, under an umbrella on a sunny afternoon, only getting up for some iced tea. I also remember being entranced by children’s books, such as When you Reach Me and The Phantom Tollbooth, not being able to get out of bed until I had inhaled one after another.
There is something so satisfying about not knowing anything about a book when you sit down, then having experienced it in its totality just a few hours later. I think this specific reading experience is what turned me on to Children’s fiction in the first place. It wasn’t necessarily the age of the characters or the innocence of the humor, but instead that ‘just right’ length – more like watching a movie than committing to a whole TV series. God Help the Child also hits this mark. With its 178 pages and huge type face, it’s impossible to doubt that you could sit down and not get up until its final words. And this is just what I recommend: experience this book’s poetry and acrid realism all at once, without leaving your favorite reading spot for anything less than an emergency. This is how it was meant to be read.