Parents reading books to children that explore difficult subjects.

February 26, 2011

At a recent workshop in Chicago I was talking about the picture book Unlovable by Dan Yaccarino, which is about Alfred, a pug who is made to feel inferior by a cat, a parrot, and the other neighborhood dogs. When a new dog moves in next door, he helps Alfred realize he is fine just the way he is. The best of books are always about more than one subject and some of the subjects this story explores are: being true to yourself, boasting, bullies, friendship, lying, sense of self, and a “shaky” self-esteem. In the course of the conversation a participant said that she didn’t think a book for children should include topics such as lying and judging people on outward appearances—she didn’t want a book to plant those negative ideas. She wanted books that were sweet and showed the world in a positive light.

My response is that I want books that reflect all aspects of life—the good and the not so good. Lying and judging people unfairly are part of childhood and to have those topics in a story which sets up the opportunity to have a conversation to explore those issues is a gift for parents.  Stories that offer a glimpse of both the best and the worst of human nature put events in a larger context, allowing parents and children to have more meaningful conversations.

Parents want their children to feel safe, but traumas, natural disasters, wars, and racism are all part of the world. The urge is not to talk with children about subjects that are difficult, but the reality is that your children will learn about these subjects, and if not from you, then from someone else. And that “someone else” is not going to have the conversations you want to have with your child.

You can only protect your children from reality for so long and even then you don’t protect them from life’s more unpleasant sides. I am a big believer that information is power and I think most parents want to have conversations with their children about what matters.

I am from the school of Reb Nachman who said: “Others might tell stories to put you to sleep, but I tell stories to wake you up.

To scribble in margins of books or not?

February 21, 2011

Truth be told, I do scribble in the margins of the books I read. I also date where and when I first read a book. And when I revisit the book, I take pleasure in the memories those annotations bring forth. Having said that, I also have a philosophical problem with writing in books, so […]


The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics by Norton Juster should never go out of print!

February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day is a very good excuse to become intimate with The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (1963) by Norton Juster (The Phantom Tollbooth) Using only black and red, Juster tells the poignant yet humorous tale of a straight line in love with a red dot, and the line’s attempts to […]


Charles Dickens believed in fancy and romance.

February 6, 2011

I don’t believe anyone ever outgrows fairytales. Charles Dickens, the most popular English novelist of the Victorian era believed in fancy and romance. Dickens, who would be 199 years old today understood the power and need for fairytales. In “Frauds on the Fairies” he wrote “In an utilitarian age, of all other times, it is a […]


Kung Hei Fat Choi

February 2, 2011

It feels appropriate to bring in the year of The Rabbit with this gentle and reflective poem by Lao Tzu, who is attributed with the writing of the “Tao-Te Ching”. According to Chinese tradition, The Rabbit is a lucky sign and ushers in a year in which you can catch your breath and calm your […]


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