Soaking in the fun
From Tots to Teens: By DAPHHNE LEE
MY kids love to take baths. I don’t mean showers and I don’t mean water being thrown over them using a plastic scoop. I mean baths, in a bathtub. I mean wallowing in water and bubbles. I mean sailing boats and drowning action figures and floating ducks, hippos, lions and other plastic animals. I mean making rain with a watering can, and making waves with little feet and hands.
Are there any parents out there whose children’s faces don’t light up at the thought of splashing in a long bath? If so, please write and tell me so I can interview these unusual specimens you have raised!
My eldest son loves sitting in the bath, in shallow water, just before bedtime. He calls it his “private time”, when he “reviews” (his word) the day and all he’s done. In the bath with him are five flat rubber frogs – the sort with suckers on the bottom so you can spread them out as a non-slip surface in the bath.
don’t know their part in the whole “reviewing” process, but I have heard him chatting away, so maybe they are good listeners. When he was tiny, he preferred choreographing elaborate water ballets for his plastic safari animals. The dangers he put those creatures in! I’m not sure if they have quite recovered from the experience.
Anyway, I’m writing about bath time because I recently came across a book about that very activity. It is called I Love to Take a Bath (RIC Publications, 40 pages) and it’s by Kyoko Matsuoka (translated by Mia Lynn Perry), with illustrations by Akiko Hayashi, who has become, in the past year, one of my Top 10 favourite illustrators.
The picture book is about a little boy who gets caught up with the fun and games afforded by plenty of hot water and soapsuds, and how he starts imagining a whole menagerie of animals joining in his watery adventures. Mike is cute and the animals who join him for a splash, even cuter.
I love the way Hayashi’s skill as an illustrator allows us to take in the scenes through, as it were, a steamy, watery lens. The colours are muted and the lines soft and gentle, but she gives realistic shape to the boy’s fantasy, stressing the magical power of the imagination.
One of the reasons I like this book so much is because it reminds me of Andrew’s Bath (Puffin Books, 32 pages), a picture book by David McPhail, another illustrator on my Top 10 list. In this book, Andrew’s parents finally allow him to give himself a bath. However, the boy keeps getting interrupted by a crocodile who bites holes in his flannel, a lion who drinks the bath water, an elephant who likes the taste of shampoo, and so on.
I love the shape of McPhail’s characters. They are ever so slightly disproportionate (that is, a little big-headed), with blunt features and deadpan expressions that nevertheless speak volumes about the mischief that is often brewing behind a serene countenance. And if you are a mum or dad, you cannot help but relate to the, by turns, harassed, bewildered and, finally, resigned looks on Andrew’s parents’ faces.
I try not to make a fuss when my children take forever in the bath. I even indulge their obsession with the garden hose (my second boy made a small pond in the garden last weekend) because I can remember how I loved playing with water as a child. I recall spending what now seems like hours being a water sprite in my mother’s bathroom. The earthenware jar she used to store bath water in seemed to contain a whole ocean and, slipping into its silky coolness, I could lose myself in another world (yes, I should thank my lucky stars I didn’t drown), much like the way I entered another life when I read a storybook.
Baths, books and water. Even now, when I am particularly fussed, the urge to submerge myself up to my neck in hot water, with a comforting book, is strong. No wonder then, Elesh’s need to review his day in the bath. And if he imagines a frog or two, a hippo or three joining him, well, the more the merrier.