In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two young girls and a younger boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Odd Couples

Dear Aunt Debbie,

One of the books we came back with from Maine has gotten me thinking about odd couples: children's books with pairs of characters in them who complement, enjoy, and sometimes enrage each other.  We've written about several of them before: Frog and Toad, George and Martha, Elephant and Piggie.  The Dog and Bear books, by Laura Vaccaro Seeger, fall firmly into this category.

Dog is a somewhat manipulative dachshund, and Bear is a good-natured stuffed animal who he hangs out with.  There's no sense of the two of them living with any people -- they're just on their own, hanging out.

The book you gave us is the second volume of the Dog and Bear series: Dog and Bear: Two's Company.  Each book contains three stories, and the first one in this volume establishes character immediately:

"I am very angry with you, Bear.  I am running away."
"All right, Dog.  Go ahead."
"I am packing my bones."
"You do that."
"I am packing my sticks."
"Of course you are," said Bear.
"I am packing all my toys."
"Don't forget this one," said Bear.

Throughout, Bear gazes at Dog with a slightly woeful expression.  He lets Dog pack up and head for the door, then quietly invites him back for ice cream.  All is resolved.

I like the fact that there's no explanation of why Dog was mad at Bear in the first place.  As in Spinky Sulks (though on a far less intense level), we're thrust into the action mid-argument.  Both of my girls responded to the characters immediately.

So here's a question: Eleanor is starting a new school this week, and I've glanced at a few "first day of school" type books at the library to see if they'd be worth picking up.  All of them that I've seen, however, start from the assumption that the first day of school is something to be feared.  This isn't how Eleanor feels, and I don't want to give her the idea that school is something she should be worried about, so I've largely avoided them.  Do you have any favorite first day of school books that don't have that tone?

Love, Annie

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