Funny things that happen at the library: Octagons.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may recall that I work in a library (although, as of very recently, I switched branches in the city, transferring from the one that I worked at for nearly eight years).  I’m not a librarian or a library assistant so front line customer service isn’t part of my duties, but I still get a chance to talk to some of our patrons…and sometimes I just can’t help smiling at what they have to say.  Take this morning, for example:  a young mum asked me for books about shapes for her three-year-old girl.  We browsed the board book spinners and came up with some great titles, including a really sweet one featuring Snoopy (I’m a total softy for Snoopy and naturally assume everyone else is as well).  I thought I had the search wrapped up tidily as the mother flipped quickly through the books, but she turned to me with a sheepish grin on her face.  “These are great,” she said, “but my daughter is really interested in octagons right now.  She just loves octagons.”


Well, I don’t blame her, really – octagons are very attractive shapes and quite satisfying from a mathematical perspective.  And the word is seriously fun to say aloud.  But I have yet to see a board book featuring octagons.  Actually, if anyone out there is writing board books for a living, please throw some octagons into the next “shape” book you pump out, would you? (I found this rather interesting title at work a few weeks ago, and if it exists, octagons shouldn’t be a complete stretch).  I know a certain three-year-old who would be really impressed….

If you have children, what words or concepts most captivated them when they were toddlers?  Do you remember any ideas you were fixated with as a child?  I can’t recall if I had any obsessions with certain words when I was that age (my Mum might remember!) but I know that even as I got older, I was constantly trying to reinvent the English language – it wasn’t that I mispronounced words (although I occasionally did that, and still do), it was that I was always deliberately making up new words, and renaming things around me.  The various cats we had over the years had so many inventive-yet-utterly-ridiculous monikers, it’s no wonder they never came when they were called.

Oh, wait….   😉

Clipart credit.


  1. I used to work in a deli and one day a man came in and asked if we had any spinach. I directed him to the local greengrocers as we didn’t sell vegetables. He said “no, it has to be in a tin, it is for my son who is a big Popeye fan”! Lovely. As is your story. 🙂

  2. I didn’t know what a board book might be. Now that I have that figured out, I’m trying to remember word fixations. I mostly remember mispronunciations. I had trouble with “l”, so “wolf” and “towel” were especially hard.

    • Ah – board books! I didn’t consider that they wouldn’t be called board books outside of Canada (hmmm…now I wonder if that’s what they’re called all across Canada. I must do some investigating). I know they’re sometimes called “baby books,” too, but that seems sort of restrictive as to the age groups that might want to read them. We recommend them sometimes for children older than babies, ones that are just beginning to read on their own but can’t manage the little “Easy Reader” chapter books yet because they’re just grasping the basic concepts.

      I think “l” is a hard one for many children, especially depending on the specific placement of the consonant in a given word. It’s wonderful how children figure it all out through reinforcement and repetition. (Same with trying to learn a new language!).

      • It might not be just a Canada/US thing. I’m old enough (born in 1946) that it’s entirely possible they weren’t printing such books. I do remember cloth books, though — some were made of something resembling oilskin!

          • Ah, ha! Look at these entries from your linked article:

            “Cloth books became common from roughly 1900 to 1940 because they were “washable, indestructible, and hygienic”; however, their production ended with cloth rationing during the World War II era…

            The 1940s and 1950s saw the emergence of board books of many forms…”

            I was born in 1946, which suggests I received hand-me-down cloth books which I remember, but that I was a little too early for board books. I was reading by three years, so I moved pretty quickly to regular books.

            It’s not unlike my experience with Dr. Seuss. I don’t remember reading a Dr. Seuss book until after I saw “The Grinch That Stole Christmas” on tv. On the other hand, I had the Gerald McBoingBoing records and books — also written by a very early Dr. Seuss, before he became famous. The 1951 cartoon short still is hilarious.

  3. My youngest was obsessed with a book of Mother Goose Nursery rhymes. We’d start at the beginning, and when we’d come to the end, we’d have to start all over again.

  4. How interesting. Not having children, I have not thought about shapes. I don’t know of a bood that goes into octagon and shapes like this. Good idea to have one for children.


    • I had never thought of having a book with shapes more sophisticated than the standard triangle, square, circle, etc.. I didn’t think that some very young children might be interested in shapes such as octagons, but it’s obviously a niche a writer might want to tap….

  5. How amusing! I also used to love the sound of certain words, one of which was satsuma, which I actually mixed up with mushroom. And my Mum’s ‘lemon meringue pie’ was just a bit too complex for a three-year-old, so became lemon man pie! 😉

    • I can see how the word “satsuma” would appeal – it’s one of those words with a fantastic sound! I can see how you arrived at mushroom with it, as well. And “lemon man pie” is so wonderful, I love that so much!

  6. My eldest daughter was fascinated by dinosaurs from a very early age (she still loves them at nearly 32) and we read as many books as we could on the subject. One book, the Ladybird Book of Dinosaurs, I read to her every night from cover to cover for over a year! I became quite an expert on dinosaurs!

    • Dinosaurs are such a captivating subject – for both children and adults! We have a huge section of them at our community library and they are always circulating. I love that your daughter was so passionate about them, and still is!

  7. What a sweet story for a writer. I wish I had written more down when my children were small. So much has escaped the sieve of a brain but it sounds like a need that should soon be filled. Enjoyed reading this.

I'm delighted to hear from you - thanks so much for your comments!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.