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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Children's Books and Frugality

As I surveyed the list of children’s books I posted yesterday, I was overwhelmed by emotion and wonderful memories of reading with my children. Then I was struck by how many of these books have to do with the very values we deem important: family, simple pleasures, and so forth. A sub-theme in many is frugality.

None of these books depicts a family in which each member is alone in his or her room watching tv. None of these books depicts a holiday scene in which children are overwhelmed by boxes and boxes of gifts.

Let me speak a little more specifically about some of these.

Oxcart Man: The family works together on a farm. The father journeys to the market, where he sells his ox and buys necessities and a few small gifts for his family. Beautifully written by a well-known poet.

Miss Rumphius: She travels the world and teaches. Then she has to decide how to make the world more beautiful. She chooses to scatter lupine seeds.

Roxaboxen: This tells how a group of children in Arizona made a whole world out of nothing.

Blueberries for Sal: Picking blueberries with mom. (Sal’s encounter with the bear will give a heart attack to many parents.)

Stone Soup. I remember this one from my own childhood. How with cleverness and creativity, soldiers get selfish villagers to make soup out of “nothing.”

One book is about gifts. Happy Birthday Moon is not about splurging on some extravagant item, but about how giving is a gift for the giver.

Two books are about “greed.” Strega Nona deals with a magic pasta pot; Anthony makes too much pasta and ends up with a tummy ache.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs presents every child’s fantasy: food falling out of the sky!

Two books that I would add to the list:
Something from Nothing: about how nothing is wasted as a boy’s jacket becomes a vest and eventually a button. At the end you have a story!
A Chair for My Mother: Mom works hard and is soooo tired, so the family starts a coin jar to buy mom a chair.

More to come! It says something about how often we read these books that I am speaking about them from memory—more than 10 yeaers later.

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