Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Raising Good Post-Modernists

In my recent reading with Son, Frog and Toad & Owl at Home, both by Arnold Lobel, I have realized that many of the writers who are publishing today probably grew up reading Mr. Lobel. I only mention this because I find so many of the stories dwell on indeterminacy and I find it so odd. An example:
Toad sipped his tea. "Frog," he asked. "Are you making this up?"
"Maybe yes and maybe no," said Frog. (from "Shivers)

This is just one example. My favorite may be from the owl book. An example: Owl is making "Tear-Water Tea" and so he thinks of sad things to make him cry.
"Songs that cannot be sung," said Owl, "because the words have been forgotten...Spoons that have fallen behind the stove and are never seen again. ..Mornings nobody saw because everybody was sleeping," sobbed Owl.

The stories are a weird mix of topics children would be interested in, like baking and eating cookies, with a decidely post-modern sensibility. The cookie story, for example, becomes a story about self-control, with Frog and Toad putting the cookies in a box to keep themselves from eating them. They end up throwing them out in the grass for the birds to eat and then Frog goes home to bake a cake (or something). And there is one about how Toad makes a list of things to do and then loses it, so he can't do anything. I think the ways we write now are a direct result of Arnold Lobel. He's like Donald Barthelme for toddlers. Son seems to like it.

(in unrelated news, Son said this morning, "Jedis don't take showers." So if you needed to know the real reason why Leia chose Han Solo over Luke, aside from that little incest taboo, it's because Jedis have B.O. And we know why.)


susansinclair said...

Frog and Toad are for getting kids ready for one of my favorite books: The Phantom Tollbooth!

Lisa B. said...

I think I may have read these books to my kids. But my absolute favorites of kid books are the Frances books--Bread and Jam for Frances, A Bargain for Frances, Best Friends for Frances, A Baby Sister for Frances, A Birthday for Frances. Each a worthy tale, with spontaneous songs in each.

And may I say that I have missed Dr. Write's posts?

Lisa B. said...

I just remembered another story, re Jedis and their hygiene:

My daughter was a nanny for a family of spoiled-rotten kids for a year. The littlest boy, also spoiled rotten, but just 3, so still with redeeming qualities, loved Batman. He also wanted to shower with the nanny. My family told her to tell him that "Batman showers alone."

Dr. Write said...

Yes! I read Bread and Jam for Frances to my little sister. Then, when I worked at a child care place, I read them to the kids. My favorite line was from Baby Sister, where Frances hides under the sink. "I like it under here," she says. "It's cozy." I also have the song from Bread and Jam memorized. I must remember to sing it to Son.