One of my all time favorite books is Cheaper By The Dozen. It’s a fictionalized version of the real life of the Gilbreth family of twelve children in the 1920s, whose father was an engineer and a pioneer in the field of motion study and whose mother was also an engineer and a psychologist. Father Gilbreth used to apply his motion study principles to his large family and this book includes funny stories about how the children skipped grades through school, learned Morse code and French and got their tonsils removed en masse. After doing some research I found out that the second oldest child, Mary, died at age six, which meant that the dozen children were never contemporaries. But the family included her in spirit so that made up the dozen in the title. The version on hoopla that is in our catalogue includes photos of the family and many other photos are on the Internet for those who are interested in what the real family looked like.
Does it ever feel like there’s a constant pressure on to be happy and to only ever experience positive emotions? (Nevermind the fact that we divide up the emotions between positive & negative, thereby already biasing them to be thought of as either good or bad for you.)
Well here are some picture books that talk about (negative) emotions and acknowledge them as being part and parcel of being human (… strictly speaking, animal, since when they feature, the humans involved are not the ones experiencing the negative emotions). Some of them discuss how it’s perfectly OK to be experiencing these ups and downs, whereas others highlight what emotions such as fear and jealousy (or in this particular case, the selfish personality of the giraffe) hold you back from the possibility of experiencing things you could never have previously imagined.
Grumpy Monkey by Suzanne Lang, illustrated by Max Lang, is great at portraying how sometimes our grumpiness can seem completely illogical: there’s nothing to be grumpy about, but you know what? We all wake up on the wrong side of the bed some days, and that’s alright! Having your friends there to be there for you, even if what they’re doing isn’t cheering you up per se, can be a boon to your emotional state. Grumpy Monkey yells at his friends, denying his grumpiness, but it’s when he actually accepts that yes, he just might be grumpy, and yes, his friends do still love & care for him, that he starts to feel a bit better.
May I introduce you to the inhabitants of our fruit bowl here that you’ll find in Fruit Bowl, by Mark Hoffmann: Apple, Peach, Banana, Lemon, Orange, Pear, Strawberry, Grapes, Lime, Blueberry, and Tomato. Wait – tomato? Slightly creepy (just look at those faces) but ever so adorable (in that “it’s weird but I love it” kind of way) – complete with arguably some of the best puns of all time in children’s fiction – Tomato makes his case to the fruit bowl denizens that tomatoes are, indeed, a fruit. But why stop there? It’s not just tomatoes! A whole lineup of other unlikely fruits gravitate in line to the fruit bowl from the crisper in the fridge, finally gaining the ability to be recognized for what they truly are. Read it to find out what else belongs in the fruit bowl!
A delightful read, though I have to admit with a somewhat ambiguous takeaway; is Hoffmann just tackling the issue of what makes a fruit a fruit, or are we actually talking about in-groups and out-groups? Also, why are vegetables presented as being lesser than fruits? Why does everyone want to be a fruit? Or do they just want to be recognized for who/what they really are? I’m also interested in why Tomato is male, because do tomatoes (the fruit) even have sexes?*, but that might be a discussion for another time – I absolutely adored this book from beginning to end, literally cover to cover.