My job description is “typesetter,” but in this digital age, it mostly consists of using the copy and paste functions, then conforming the text to the paper’s format and style and correcting grammar. When we get a submission only in hard copy, I have to type it by hand. With things like legal property descriptions, this can be tedious (though I do enjoy the precise, formal language), but sometimes it’s enjoyable.
Columnist Mildred Reinhardt always sends her submissions on hard copy and it’s obvious why – the pages are clearly written on a typewriter. This is uplifting. It’s good to know that some people are still using typewriters today. I also enjoy the content, usually about what things were like during her childhood. Daily life of years past, with details like food and candy, dresses and furniture, is fascinating. One of the attractions of watching old movies, like the ones starring Aitkin’s own Warren William I've reviewed here, is seeing the architecture, cars and appliances. I especially like noting the makes of clocks – Westclox are common, and Sessions. In one film, I caught sight of a Breguet – a centuries-old Swiss clock maker, still in business making watches selling for hundreds of thousands.
Returning to the subject of my fellow columnist, perusing garage sales on Memorial Day weekend, I came across another Mildred Reinhardt work – a picture book titled The Centipede who Stopped to Think. It seems to have been self-published, in March of 1986. The book is signed, but perhaps I shouldn’t say to whom because I wouldn’t want the fact that it ended up in a garage sale to cause hard feelings!
It’s a very cute and funny little story. Beginning with a humorous description of centipedes in contrast to other creatures, it tells the tale of a centipede who while “walking along very fast to where he was going, taking one step after another with his many, many legs,” is interrupted by a curious gopher who asks him a question that changes his life – all to a simple, happy ending. The illustrations are simple, black lines that look like ballpoint pen and four colors. The gopher has some very humanlike gestures and the centipede, funny little expressions. Overall, it’s terribly cute and clever and I think any child would enjoy it.
There are many variables affecting children’s literacy and ability to learn and many government departments that collect statistics thereon. One incontrovertible fact is that children who are frequently read to at an early age do overwhelmingly better in many ways. The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act of 2008 banned the distribution of children’s books printed before 1985, supposedly due to dangers of lead in ink. Many of the best and most beautiful of children’s books were produced before this time and multitudes of children who grew up with them never suffered lead poisoning, so some count it fortunate that this law is not strictly enforced. The Centipede who Stopped to Think just barely makes the cutoff, so no legal worries for the garage saler. But old or new, self-published or bestseller, be sure to be on the lookout for good books and read them to your children and grandchildren.