Friday, January 30, 2009

Just the Way You Are

We want our children to be confident, to find their own niche, to feel good about something they love to do. That thing is not always the expected or conventional, though. These stories each celebrate doing things your own way, in your own time. They'll have you singing along with Frank (or Syd), "I did it myyyyyyyy way!"

The Fabulous Song, by Don Gillmor, ill. Marie-Louise Gay

This fantastic Canadian duo have collaborated on some of my very favourites, and this is no exception. Frederic's mother names him for Chopin, and is convinced he will be a musical genius. Despite this, her many attempts at getting him playing various instruments meet with failure after failure. It isn't until Frederic notices a conductor that he finds his niche, and makes his hidden musical talent known by bringing together his extended family in perfect harmony. It's funny, it's got great art, and the message is uplifting without being hammered home. Perfect.

Omar on Ice, by Maryann Kovalski

Omar loves pictures and wants to be an artist - unfortunately, drawing is not exactly his forte. He feels terrible until he goes skating, something he loves to do, and forgets all about it. But he feels even better than okay when a classmate points out the figures he has unwittingly drawn with his skates - he is an artist after all! A rousing book celebrating the joys of doing what you love - differently.

Leo the Late Bloomer, by Robert Kraus

Leo didn't do any of the things the other kids did. His father began to worry, but his mother had faith that he would catch up on his own schedule. And one day, proving both that not all children are the same and that mother's intuition is spot-on so often, Leo did indeed "bloom," suddenly able to do everything his parents could hope for. This classic is easily overlooked, as Kraus' drawing style is not flashy, but this and his other works are wonderful, and should not be missed.

The Mixed-Up Chameleon, by Eric Carle

A chameleon who feels envious of the qualities of several other animals takes on the characteristics of each, becoming so discombobulated that when a fly flies by and he is hungry, he doesn't know how to catch it until he wishes he was himself again. This simple lesson on appreciating who you are and the things that you can do is rendered in the instantly recognizable art of Eric Carle. It has the added benefit of presenting animals and colours, and comes in a board book as well.

Also in this vein, see Alexander and the Wind Up Mouse, Frederick, and others by Leo Lionni. My beloved Kevin Henkes books also often contain a note of this - see Chrysanthemum, Chester's Way, Owen, and Jessica.

Originally posted on MommyBlogsToronto/Better Than a Playdate.

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