I was thinking recently about the various books that
I read were read to me in preschool. I remember in particular there being a young man (I think his name was Chris) who would read to us on the universal (or is this only an American thing?) big rug. I think I had a crush on him, or whatever the three or four year old equivalent to that is. There was some wide-eyed admiration, anyway.
Or maybe I only liked him for the stories, toddlers are little mercenaries that way.
A Bad Case of Stripes, David Shannon:
Camilla Cream turns many colors and patterns when she denies her natural love of lima beans to fit in with the cool kids. As a big fan of the much-maligned legume, this book speaks to me still. It also has an excellent manifold moral (1. Eat your vegetables, 2. Respect your personal preferences), which will confound your little ones into thinking there is no moral. And then before they know it they’ll have been formed into acceptable lima bean-consuming members of society.
Chrysanthemum, Kevin Henkes:
And other books by Kevin Henkes because Kevin Henkes was and is king. You know him, he writes books about young mice overcoming difficulties. Like Chrysanthemum. She has a long name and instead of just going by Chrissy or Thea or Mumsy or Sandy or any of the other available nicknames, she stews in her juices until her music teacher who also has a long name gives her a long-named role model. And suddenly her friends stop mocking her and want to be called ‘Lily of the Valley.’ Unfortunately, Chrysanthemum never does learn to value things that do not have the approval of her peers. She should read A Bad Case of Stripes.
I’ve got a lovely and under-appreciated name for you mice. Try Constance.
The Paper Bag Princess
Purple, Green, and Yellow
Stephanie’s Ponytail, all Robert Munsch:
Robert Munsch was very big in my preschool. Paper Bag Princess is excellently feminist because the girl calls the snotty prince ‘stupid’ at the end (or maybe it’s ‘poopy’)(also a highly controversial book for said reason). I remember thinking Stephanie’s Ponytail was hysterical because of the twist ending, which rivals even the twist endings of Memento and The Sixth Sense. Purple, Green, and Yellow is essentially the magical joy of markers, but in book form. Especially the smelly ones.
The Rainbow Fish, Marcus Pfister
Rainbow Fish has two interpretations, and I really hated it, all my life even, until I came up with the second one. The first interpretation is that we should dull our sparkle so other people feel more comfortable in their mediocrity.
The second interpretation deals with the values of socialism and wealth redistribution; a good lesson for children.
Stellaluna, Janell Cannon
This book was a cruel and sad thing to read to a preschooler, but, demonstrating early signs of the masochism that has since come to define me and my outlook on life (just kidding), I loved it. Stellaluna is a fruit bat who loses her Mommy. She eventually does find her Mommy, but think: What are we really but blind little bats in this great universe, looking always for the comfort and security of childhood that we will likely never regain?
The Grouchy Ladybug, Eric Carle
Ladybug with a ‘tude gets bitchslapped by a whale. Good for teaching your own grouchy little ladybug how to count. Also for teaching them that they “don’t want to catch these hands.”