The lure of disasters

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

I've known for pretty much as long as I can remember that boys and girls are very different from one another, and not just anatomically.

But now that I have a child of each gender, I know it beyond any doubt.

Throughout her childhood, my nearly 19-year-old daughter went through all kinds of phases. She was wild for what I considered that right things at the right times -- Disney princesses, Barbie dolls, Tara Lipinski, Hanson.

Being that I'm a girl myself, I'd been through all the same things, and I considered her quite normal.

Then came my son.

When he was very little, he liked typical little boy things. Cars, trains, bugs ... the usual.

But as he's grown, his interests have taken a definite turn.

These days, my 7-year-old son Will is all about maritime disasters and presidential assassinations.

I think it started when we were riding in the car about a year ago and the song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" came on. He listened to the entire song and then asked me if it was a true story.

I couldn't lie.

Now, he is absolutely fascinated with the story of the Titanic.

Of course, he wants to rent the movie. I've told him he doesn't want to see it because it's not historically accurate (in reality, I don't want him to see it because it contains full frontal nudity, but I'm sure not going to tell him that).

But he has found some books at the library, as well as a Discovery Channel special on DVD.

But get this: My husband and I were finishing up our Christmas shopping over the weekend. I went into Barnes & Noble, and just on a whim ... certainly not really thinking it was possible ... I asked the young clerk if they had any children's books about the Titanic.

I figured he'd look at me like I'd just sprouted a second head, and maybe even ask me what kind of a freak my kids was to want to read about shipwrecks.

Instead, he motioned for me to follow him.

He knew right where to go, and there it was: A pop-up book.


"This one's really popular," the clerk told me. "There's lots of stuff in for kids to touch."

It has diagrams of the ship, reproductions of the confirmation letters that were sent to the passengers, photos of newspaper clippings about the wreck.

It's called "Ship of Dreams." It has a shiny silver cover with a hologram picture of the ship on it.

What a find!

I sat in the bookstore and looked through the whole thing.

I told my husband we'd have to make sure Will opened that last, because if he opened it first we'd lose him and he'd never get through the rest of the stuff.

The other thing he's obsessed with these days is the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

This one took root this past summer when we visited the site of Lincoln's boyhood home in Spencer County.

There is a very large book in the children's section of the library, but it's considered a reference book and can't be borrowed (for a child who loves non-fiction and has no time for the antics of the likes of Dick and Jane, the no borrowing reference books rule is a real downer).

Not being able to borrow this book has been bumming my kid out for a long time. He looks at it every time we go to the library, and is always very sad when he has to go home without it.

Andy and I looked at the book online once. It was $25 plus shipping ... kind of salty for a book, we thought, so we forgot about it.

Imagine my surprise when I got an e-mail from Borders, trumpeting the very book my son coveted as a selection of the week -- on sale for $19.99 and eligible for free shipping!

I'll take it. With no more effort than a few mouse clicks, the large tome ended up on my doorstep in two days flat.

When my son started being interested in these rather dark things, I wondered if I should be worried.

My friend Jason -- hands-down the most brilliant person I know -- said I shouldn't be.

"Kids have a natural interest in the macabre," he told me. "But he's exploring it through history, and that's a very, very good thing. Encourage it."

I think I will.

Here's to a beautiful Christmas day filled with stories of shipwrecks.

Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic. She can be reached at jbarrand@bannergraphic.com.