Just ten days ago, we were posting in this space on the topic of picture books about self-reliance. Today, our topic is books about home. And there, in a nutshell, is the yin-and-yang, the contradictory impulse at the heart of preschooler existence. They long for independent adventure, and they crave the comfort of a hand to hold and of home.
Think only of some of the greats of children's literature: Where the Wild Things Are, Harold and the Purple Crayon or our beloved Wynken, Blyken and Nod. Each of these books features kids who embark on wondrous journeys only to return to their own safe, cozy beds. Home is a place to dream of not being home, these books seem to suggest.
But there is another genre of children's books about home, one that unabashedly celebrates the pleasures of domestic life in all its myriad forms. It is to these that we turn this week, as we continue our celebration of all things homey.
Mary and the Mouse by Beverly Donofrio, illustrated by Barbara McClintock
An adorable, mesmerizing tale about a lifelong, intergenerational friendship between a girl and a mouse who live under the same roof. "Mary lived in a big house with a very little mouse. The Mouse lived in a little house inside a very big house, with Mary." The girl and mouse's parallel lives and relationship develop from there in a very sweet fashion. But what we love best about this book are the illustrations. Barbara McClintock (of Adele & Simon fame) creates stunningly detailed domestic interiors for both the human and mouse families. Kids can't get enough of the interior décor of the cozy little mouse home: an egg carton as sofa, spools as chairs, bottle caps and stamps as wall hangings. And parents are quite taken with the gorgeous renderings of Mary's house. It's a visual treat and a lovely homage to the delights of home.
Anybody at Home? by H.A. Rey
This small book about home is a sure winner with the toddler and younger preschool set. H.A. Rey is best know, of course for Curious George. But his Lift-the-Flap books for younger children, of which this is one, are also well worth discovering. Each page presents a picture of a mysterious animal habitat, asking the reader, in clever verse, to guess who lives there. Lift the flap, and the question is answered! Kids never tire of seeing all sorts of sweet animals emerge from their caves, nests, cocoons and other habitations.
The Tale of Two Bad Mice by Beatrix Potter
Here is a classic and hilarious tale of domestic disturbance - of the dollhouse variety, that is. Does it seem right to you that two lifeless dolls should have a luxurious home filled with every creature comfort, while the local mice must make do with a barren little hole in the wall? The naughty mice of this story think not. The story of how they avail themselves of the dollhouse's furnishings for their own purposes is as funny and charming as can be. These mice can appreciate the value of a cozy home, and teach a thing or two about taking care of one!
The House at East 88th Street by Bernard Waber
The first of Bernard Waber's beloved series about Lyle the Crocodile is an ode to the delights of a lovely home. When the Primm family moves into their new house on East 88th Street, they assume that it is empty. Splashing sounds from the bathroom suggest otherwise. They are naturally quite alarmed to find a large crocodile within, but in a matter of days he has become a beloved and model member of the household. He is lovely company, insists on doing chores, and requires nothing more than regular baths and plenty of Turkish caviar. In turn, Lyle fully appreciates his good luck. Crocodile as domestic diva? A winning concept, and a winning book.
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