We have children's books stacked throughout our small apartment. One stack of library books over in the living room, another piling of "read these tonight" books on his bed, and several books that are read so often that they just kinda live in our space. There have been days when every table, every room (including the bathrooms) have children's books strewn around, and I can't tell you how happy that makes me.
The quality of those children's books vary. I try really hard to not be all judgy and snoodie about the books he loves — I should be happy he likes books at all, right? — but between you and me, I have to suck down a lot of internal NOs before reading yet another vapid story about the goddamn Power Rangers.
But part of that comes from the fact that I really love children's books — like, beyond the literacy thing, beyond my own nostalgia and writer heart. Kids have this unbounded imagination, this deep capacity to learn and absorb the tiniest intricacies of life. And like Kathleen Kelly said in You've Got Mail, "When you read a book as a child, it becomes part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does."
It does! There's a responsibility there. It's important.
So when I mentioned maybe featuring some of my favorite children's books that I've read (and my god, there are a lot of incredible children's books being made right now), and there seemed to be an enthusiastic response, I knew exactly which book series to start with:
The Adventures of Kate & Nate
I heard the first book in the series, "Kate's First Mate," casually mentioned in a podcast, and it was described as a book that teaches realistic relationship lessons to kids. Considering I've written about how crazy unprepared we are for the realities of relationships, and how downright irresponsible the Happily Ever After narrative is for kids, THIS IS EXACTLY THE BOOK I WISHED EXISTED.
And I'll tell you, the author Colin Dubin did not let me down. I did a brief write-up a few months ago for Babble, which you can read here, but this is the gist of the story:
If we're going to fill our children's heads with stories of relationships, which we do all the time, shouldn't we pay attention to what they're learning?
So Colin got in touch with me and sent over the second book in the series, "The Adventures of Kate & Nate: Journey Through Jellyfish Island." He also included a note about his intentions with the series:
"In tackling the job of presenting children with a positive relationship model, you must reveal the good and the bad and the ugly and that cannot all be presented in one book. The Adventures of Kate and Nate are designed to show children, over the course of 5 books, that with each new challenge and accomplishment in relationship experiences, first mates grow together. One of the most rewarding moments in a relationship is not the forward looking promise of "...and they lived happily ever after" as the princess stories would have children believe, but the glance to our past when we realize we have been supported through our best and worst by someone all along."
The second book is about FEAR. Fear in a relationship, in your life, and how it's a very real place that you can unintentionally land in your relationship.
Kate is sailing with her new mate, Nate, and all of a sudden the fog rolls in and their boat, The Happy Marriage, gets stuck on a place called Jellyfish Island — a place where the signs are confusing and give no answers; a place where the songbirds can't sing, and the jellyfish drift aimlessly. A place controlled by Captain Fear.
As I was reading it, I kept thinking, I'VE BEEN HERE! I know Jellyfish Island! Some days I still drift over to this place. And so not only does it have a positive message for kids, but it gives a certain language, a certain context, to explain our real-life marriage issues in an age-appropriate way.
This has become one of Noah's favorite books — not for the deep meaning, but because it's a good story, and he loves the illustrations, and so he picks it again and again for bedtime. And this book? This book is always a YES.
I can't wait to read the next three stories in the series.
Read more and order your own copies at KatesFirstMate.com.