Friday, October 06, 2006

Run Away, Bunny! Run Away

When you follow this link, you will find that blogger Jen Robinson was inspired to make a list of children’s books that taught her life lessons after reading a number of other discussions on the same topic. These discussions were inspired by The Guardian writer Lucy Mangan’s article about why she still reads children’s books.

I've got a list, too. I'm starting out with picture books and Easy Readers (i.e. "I Can Read" books). My first four of many (many more):

A Bargain for Frances—-Russell Hoban, illustrated by Lillian Hoban

Frances the Badger’s fink friend Thelma swindles her out of her china tea-set money, and Frances gives Thelma her comeuppance. In the end, Frances and Thelma are friends again, but what impressed me was how contradictory the message of this story was in comparison to my upbringing. If I had been Frances, I would have allegedly learned my lesson about trusting shady friends, but I would have still been stuck with a plastic tea-set and I would have had to “forgive” Thelma. A Bargain for Frances taught me that I could be a good friend to someone without acting like a doormat.

The Runaway Bunny—Margaret Wise Brown

As much as I enjoyed the pictures, especially the cozy warren in the final spread, I felt quite hostile toward the mother rabbit in the story. Even when I was 4, I wanted to shout at the cloying rabbit mother, “Leave the bunny alone! Give him room to play!” Fortunately, my parents did just that for me, though I don’t think they ever suspected the full extent of my resentment of the rabbit mother. Personal space is important.

The Terrible Tiger—-Jack Prelutsky, illustrated by Arnold Lobel

Carry a sewing kit at all times. You never know when you’ll have to cut your way out of a ravenous tiger or (if you’re feeling benevolent) stitch him up afterward. Also: there is no appeasing or reasoning with bullies.

Over in the Meadow—-Olivia A.Wadson, illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats

You’ve probably gathered by now that sometimes I was an angry child. Like other children, I hated it when people were unfair, I resented adults when they patronized me, and I didn’t understand how someone could just decide that s/he didn’t want to be friends with me. When my mother said, “You only spend a little time of your life being a child. For most of your life, you will be a grown-up,” I couldn’t imagine even making it to the age of 10.

Over in the Meadow starts off in the morning with one turtle mother entreating her child to do what turtles do: dig in the sand. It progresses throughout the day, and on the last page, the ten firefly children are shining “like stars in the soft, shady glen.”

Life lessons learned:

1) Time passes. It's a good thing.
2) Lists help me settle my thoughts.
3) I remember ideas better when I set them to lyrical poetry.
4) It is hard to rhyme “seven” with anything remotely pertinent to the storyline.

That's me. What about you?


Nonny said...

The only one of those I've read is the Francis story. It was one of my favorites. I don't think I took stories so literal when I was little. I didn't learn any lessons exactly, I just enjoyed the story. I wish now I had, instead of learning everything the hard way.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Nonny: If I'm going to be fair, I only realized I learned these lessons from the books later on. I am glad you just enjoyed the story instead of thinking hard about what the message was. You absorbed it better that way!

limpy99 said...

"Goodnight Moon": Saying "goodnight mush" will crack you up every time. Worth knowing.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Limpy99: "Goodnight nobody" was always the line that had me rolling in the aisles.:)

Jen Robinson said...

Hi Alkelda,

Thanks for linking to my list! I'm glad that you enjoyed it, and I enjoyed reading yours, too. I don't have a good enough memory to know if I learned anything from books like the Francis story, but it makes me want to read those books now. Thanks for sharing!

Fridaysweb said...

I absolutely love your lists. They bring back fond memories of my own early childhood and also sharing books with my kids when they were little. As much as they both have tried to shun reading over the past couple of years, they have both recently learned to love it, again. Thanks to a couple of very good and liberal English teachers (who allow the kids to read what they WANT, as one project, as long as they read the regular curriculum-choices, for the other projects), both girls are currently reading different books and soaring through them. The oldest was required to read Siddhartha (spelling?), recently, and grumbled about it at first. After reading through the first 2 chapters, though, she got hooked and finished the book in 4 days - that's all after school and on the bus reading time. Reading really IS fundamental.

Alkelda the Gleeful said...

Jen: You're welcome! And thank you for your book list, too.

Friday: Hurrah for both your kids and their English teachers. I don't think I read Sidhartha until I was in college, though I think I enjoyed Steppenwolf more. Many of the essays and books I had to read in college are distant memories (i.e. I have to reread them to remember what they were), while the books I read as a child are often fresh and clear in my mind. I wonder why that is.

Melangell said...

Frances the Badger is really the greatest. And I agree, I have had mixed feelings about the mother in Runaway Bunny as well. I thought (even as a mother myself) that she was infuriatingly "right" and intrusive. It was the movie (name?) with Emma Thomson (sp?)dying of cancer that redeemed Runaway Bunny more fully for me.

It is odd that you and I have such vivid memories of the same children's books, even though I have sense that we are from different generations. "You go, girl." (Even that expression must be horribly passe by now.)

BlueMamma said...

you're inspiring. i'm going to post a blog about my favorite childhod stories and the lessons they taught me...

ooh, more lists. i love lists.