Friday, June 5, 2009
I'm a big believer that you are never too old for picture books, and that they make great gifts for anyone from 2 to 102. Their messages are often beautifully conveyed through pictures and limited words. So as my middle son prepares to graduate from high school next week, here are a few picture book suggestions for the graduate in your life.
No list would be complete without Dr. Seuss's Oh, the Places You'll Go!. It's a perennial favorite, and for very good reason. Written directly to the reader, it's the perfect book for anyone beginning a new passage in life. How can you resist lines such as: "You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose." Or "Step with care and great tact and remember that Life's a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left." You really can't go wrong with this Dr. Seuss book, and many kids will remember it from their childhood.
On a quieter and more Zen-like note, is The Three Questions written and illustrated by Jon Muth. It's a tale of Nicolai, a boy who isn't always certain about how he should act. So he sets out on a quest to find the answers to the three questions on his mind: "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? and What is the right thing to do?" He eventually asks Leo, the wise old turtle. But before Leo can answer, a storm hits and Nicolai must spring into action to help an injured panda and her cub. And while his actions demonstrate that he actually knows the answers to his questions, Leo later explains to him "...that there is only one important time, and that time is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side." Based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy, it's a beautiful allegory about living in the moment.
In Only One You, Mama and Papa (they are rock fish) are ready to share their wisdom with their son Adri as he prepares to explore the world. Their words are simple, yet meaningful: “No matter how you look at it, there is so much to discover," “Look for beauty wherever you are, and keep the memory of it with you," and "Stay in the background when necessary and stand out when you have the chance." It's a wonderful way to tell your graduate that s/he is special, while offering positive gems that everyone should live by. The colorful illustrations are quite unique, as they are rocks painted to resemble fish.
All in a Day is a brand new Cynthia Rylant book about making each day count. The text is spare, and will probably appeal more to older readers rather than young children. The story follows a little boy and his chicken as they explore, work, and play their way through the day. Exhausted at the end, the verse reads: "This day will soon be over and it won't come back again. So live it well, make it count, fill it up with you. The day's all yours, it's waiting now...See what you can do." The illustrations by Nikki McClure are black and white paper-cuts set against blue and yellow backgrounds, and give the book a unique, old-fashioned look.
All of these books celebrate the endless possibilities that stretch out before your child. They are at a momentous juncture in their lives (as are we!). For eighteen years we've raised them, and now it's time to let them go out into the world. So as they leave their childhood behind, what better way to mark it than with a children's book. Of course, there's also the option of wrapping up a favorite picture book and presenting it to them as a graduation gift. So take a look at your bookshelves and see if you're ready to part with Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Where the Wild Things Are, The Napping House or whatever book you read to them over and over again. Your young adult may be very happy to take a piece of their childhood with them as they begin their journey into the world.