WRB—Children’s Literature Supplement, July 2023
Evil is real, it is scary, and it hurts.
Picture this: You’ve never really liked animals. Sure, you’ll pet a dog here and there, and kittens can be rather cute, but you’ve just never seen the general appeal. Your family leaves on vacation and you, professional adult that you are, must stay behind and keep your nose to the grindstone. Their absence means the house is yours, and joy fills your heart at the thought of peaceful evenings and quiet meals for one. But only for an instant. For in that house, keeping you company for the week, are two birds, two dogs, seven cats, and one turtle (named after Clarence Thomas). Oh and yes, you’ve been asked to watch the neighbor’s dog, too.
Is this a true tale or simply a tall one? Sarah isn’t telling, but something inspired her to theme this newsletter on animal books. Children’s stories about animals are absolutely endless, and whether those animals are pets or the tale’s protagonists, they have a wonderful way of drawing on readers’ emotions. Welcome to the CLS menagerie.
A plethora of picture books:
Leah’s Pony by Elizabeth Friedrich (1999)
Papa Piccolo by Carol Talley (1992)
Corgiville by Tasha Tudor (1998)
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter (1901)
Days of the Blackbird by Tomie dePaola (1997)
Wonder Horse by Emily Arnold McCully (2010)
Mouseton Abbey by Nick Page (2013)
Owl Babies by Martin Waddell (1992)
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka (1989)
Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann (1995)
Millions of Cats by Wanda Gág (1928)
The Story About Ping by Marjorie Flack (1933)
Rechenka’s Eggs by Patricia Polacco (1988)
Mrs. Katz and Tush by Patricia Polacco (1992)
Piggies by Audrey Wood (1991)
Animals, chapter by chapter:
Ribsy by Beverly Cleary (1964)
The Black Stallion by Walter Farley (1941)
Redwall by Brian Jacques (1986)
The Horse and His Boy by C. S. Lewis (1954)
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White (1952)
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White (1970)
The Cricket in Times Square by George Selden (1960)
King of the Wind by Marguerite Henry (1948)
These rollicking titles are delightful and engaging. Sarah would often find herself sneaking into the room when her mom was reading these to her youngest sibling, just so she could hear what Jenny Wren said next or if Joan Mitchell would finally get her long-desired dog:
Burgess Bird Book for Children by Thornton Burgess (1919)
The Mitchells: Five for Victory by Hilda van Stockum (1945)
A genre for all ages:
Katherine Rundell writes a passionate essay on why adults shouldn’t leave children’s literature behind as they grow up:
The difficulties with the rule of readerly progression are many: one is that, if one follows the same pattern into adulthood, turning always to books of obvious increasing complexity, you’re left ultimately with nothing but Finnegans Wake and the complete works of the French deconstructionist theorist Jacques Derrida to cheer your deathbed.
The other difficulty with the rule is that it supposes that children’s fiction can safely be discarded. I would say we do so at our peril, for we discard in adulthood a casket of wonders which, read with an adult eye, have a different kind of alchemy in them.
W. H. Auden wrote “There are good books which are only for adults, because their comprehension presupposes adult experiences, but there are no good books which are only for children.”
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