On Cautionary Tales and Circular Plots


     Unfortunately I am sucker for packaging, and was instantly drawn to this minuscule collection of Maurice Sendak’s work called Nutshell Library (lesser-known, in my case). There are four perfectly suitable small books in this collection: One Was Johnny – a clever counting book, Chicken Soup With Rice – a book about the seasons, Alligators All Around – an alphabet book, and finally: Pierre: a cautionary tale. They are each short and to the point, with very little text on each small page. Even Pierre, the longest of the four, does not lose my preschooler’s attention. Much like Fables -the ultimate of cautionary tales, Pierre tells the story of a little boy who answers: “I don’t care,” to every question, until he ends up inside a lion’s stomach – learning, by the end to CARE! As I have just begun to attempt to warn my daughter of certain unfortunate outcomes if she behaves a particular way, I enjoyed reading this one with her, and gauging her reaction. Not surprisingly, at three-and-a-half, she is not yet wise enough to truly understand what Sendak is relaying in his tale, but at some point it will sink in, right?
    Along these lines, we were also recently given Herve Tullet’s book: Press Here. Have you seen this one? It is among a collection of interactive books by Tullet, in which children are encouraged to pay attention and follow directions. Tullet, who also illustrates for The New Yorker, has perfected the friendly, authoritative voice that children will certainly trust and follow. I overheard my daughter “reading” this one to her babysitter with a tone that seemed to mimic my own. So in this book, the first page begins with a yellow dot that the child is asked to “press,” before turning the page. One dot turns into two, then three, and so before the dots begin to change colors, size, and placement on the page – all based on little readers following the writer’s cues: they are asked to shake the book, to clap quietly, then loudly, and so on…Again, I can’t stress how much my daughter has responded to this book. Yes, in a way, one could argue this book is absent of a plot. But I would argue, in fact, it is a circular plot, rather than a linear one. After multiplying, changing, mixing up, and resorting the dots, in the end, we are back where we started – with one yellow dot. Later on in life, when these little ones encounter Of Mice and Men or Their Eyes Were Watching God in school, perhaps they’ll remember the first circular plot they encountered in Tullet’s Press Here

What we’re reading now: With my one-year-old, we’re enjoying Ten Tiny Tickles

Why: He loves to be tickled:)

What I’m looking for: Now that we’re in March, what are your favorite books for children by female authors?