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.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Guest blogger: Stepping back

Dear Annie,

We have a new guest blogger today.  I'm currently visiting Lizzie in Spain, but my excellent colleague Molly, who runs the book section in our McLean Virginia store, has offered this entry.

I was talking with one of my customers this week about books that have a change in perspective.  Her son was having trouble finding a new angle when an art project started to go wrong, or his sand castle fell down at the beach.  I think there is infinite value in stepping back and looking at things differently, so we had a lot of fun picking books for him to read.  Here are a few of my favorite books that have big shifts in perspective.

The Most Magnificent Thing
, by Ashley Spires, is a new favorite for storytime in my store.  In this story, an unnamed girl and her dog set out to make the Most Magnificent Thing.  The girl becomes discouraged and the dog convinces her to take a walk around the block, during which she gains some perspective.  It turns out that her inventions are all magnificent in their own ways, and all ends well.  By taking a step back, the girl realizes that her negatives were actually positives.  I love that her frustrations are relatable and her triumph, magnificent!

Goodnight Opus (out of print, sadly), by Berkeley Breathed, has Opus the penguin step back and discover things he has never noticed.  When his grandma falls asleep while reading his bedtime story, Opus decides to change the story and make his own.  He enlists his pillow (with a balloon for a head) and his newly discovered blue monster friend to join him in his quest.  They then bike into the sky to kiss cows in the milky way, go skinny-dipping with the Lincoln Memorial, and visit with a tired tooth fairy.  When Opus makes the decision to “depart the text,” his world changes from black and white to full color.  What a delightful change of pace and perspective! 

Lafcadio, by Shel Silverstein, also features a changing perspective, of sorts.  Lafcadio is a wonderfully odd lion who adores marshmallows, becomes a circus sharpshooter and eventually finds himself in the middle of an expedition that is hunting lions.  By the time he goes hunting, he has almost completely forgotten his own origins and perspective.  Lafcadio is asked to pick between the men and the lions, and chooses, instead, to walk away from them both.  The result of his step back is this:

      He didn’t really know where he was going, but he did know he was going somewhere, because you really have to go somewhere, don’t you?
      And he didn’t really know what was going to happen to him, but he did know that something was going to happen, because something always does, doesn’t it?
  There is no neatly tied-up ending, but you finish the book knowing that Lafcadio is not under anyone else’s influence.  What a weird and lovely way to see the future.


Thanks for the shift in perspective, Molly!



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