5 Books for Every ‘Cac-child
The passing of Jan Berenstain earlier this week got me thinking about which picture books belong in the life of every ‘Cac child. I compiled the following list:
1.The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
According to Wikipedia, “Some academic readers describe the book as portraying a vicious, one-sided relationship between the tree and the boy; the tree is a selfless giver, and the boy as a greedy and insatiable entity that constantly receives, yet never gives anything back to the tree.” That is a very interesting interpretation, situating a classic children’s book within the cannon of the 99%; however, as an academic reader I would like to point out a criticism that is often overlooked: this book sucked. There were only two colors, and four if you count the cover—which I didn’t.
I wasn’t the kind of asshole to go color it in myself, so let’s just say switching from Lisa Frank level aesthetic stimulation to The Giving Tree was like being awoken from a Spring Break dream by a bucket of cold water (I was reading in the 90’s, after all). As far as I can tell, this book should be re-titled “February” and read to every aspiring ‘Cac child directly after opening presents on Christmas.
February: it’s a monochromatic month with a heaping side-dish of elite liberal arts guilt. You’re welcome, Junior!
2. Clifford the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I feel like we were on the tail end of the Clifford revival. My parents pushed me into the classics pretty early, so 1998 was a bad year for picture books. Basically, Clifford teaches children that living on an island is awesome, and you shouldn’t complain that–until you’re old enough to notice the opposite sex–spending the summer on Nantucket or the Vineyard is akin to a 3 month long game of Monopoly and Family Fun crafts that your mom would rather sip a Mojito than help you out with (The angelhair gets glued to which bowtie?!)
Read your kid this, and even at the age of 5 little Junior will know that summer on an island is full of big, red, inconveniently wet…dogs.
3. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
There is a prevailing philosophy among some ‘Cac students that certain things are only good drunk. I’m not going to advocate anything illegal or unethical, all I am going to say is start ‘em early.
4. The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
Once-ler, that scumbag. It’s almost as if the picture book industry has a liberal bias. According to Wikipedia, the book was preceded by “I Can Write—By Me, Myself” a book that I greatly resent my parents for not having read to me. Luckily, the Lorax prevails over any marginal Seuss work because it deals with competing desires—something every ‘Cac child will eventually grapple with.
“I know it’s bad, but I kinda want a ______.” For the first ten years of Little Muffy’s life the answer is sneed. For the next 12 it will be “more ice cream.” Glory days.
5. The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
This Wilson Phillips of children’s books is a good tool to teach your child that you can be anything you want to be, as long as you score above a 700 on all three sections of the SAT. There are no small engines, only small salaries.
Don’t forget, it’s never too soon to start planning for your child to attend your alma mater (or, if worst comes to worst, one of the other 10 schools in the ‘Cac) as my mother reminded me when she presented me with a wooden pull-along polar bear at Christmas for “her first grandchild.” #notpregnant