Originally published with a different title and illustrations, this is probably one of the lesser known works by Ruth Krauss.
Thanks to its simple cover art — some paint splatter, and a boy standing just off-centre and writing out the equally spare title of the book, Art, in understated block lettering — you are refreshingly free from any preconceived notions about this book when you first open it. In other words, it kind of begins on a blank slate — pretty apt considering that is how all art begins.
A pair of red shoes become the subject of a disagreement between little Alfie and his mom. So, in an act of defiance over her (perceived) tyranny, Alfie dramatically declares that he is going to run away.
Little T has some misgivings about going to the zoo — hence the title Fraidyzoo — but the trouble is, she can’t remember what exactly she’s afraid of. Unlike most parents who will probably give the child some words of reassurance and convince her to join in, Little T’s family approaches the problem somewhat differently…
A case of mistaken identity results in Mr. and Mrs. Bird having to contend with a strange egg in their nest. However, not only do they not try to get rid of the egg, but they look after it as if it were their very own — never mind that it is so big that both of them can sit on it at the same time! And even when the egg hatches and the baby looks nothing like them — or like any bird, for that matter — they try their darnedest to feed and nurture it until the time comes for it to fly (or attempt to, anyway) the roost.
If my own experience and that of my kids are anything to go by, the dynamics between siblings can get pretty darn complicated even at a young age. While I won’t go so far as to describe it as a ‘love-hate’ relationship, it can swing between less drastic, but no less dramatic, extremes — say, ‘growl-giggle’, ‘claw-cuddle’ or ‘share-snatch’ — particularly throughout the growing-up years. As such, anyone who has a sibling will be able to relate to Chloe, Instead, a sweet book about the eponymous little girl, as told from her big sister’s perspective.
One of the things that no one can appreciate fully until they are doing it themselves, is how hard it is to be a parent — especially a mother. I mean, this is not a slight to the daddies out there, who are undeniably important and irreplaceable — but, let’s face it: the mom is, more often than not, the backbone of the family.
Some of my most memorable conversations with the kids have taken place during bedtime, when we are snuggling up in bed and doing some bedtime reading, or just generally winding down for the day. Hence, it’s easy to relate to the cozy setting of Did My Mother Do That?, which depicts an interesting bedtime conversation between the protagonist Holly and her father, after her mom heads out of the house. (It’s nice to see a dad coolly taking over the bedtime duties, too!)
When I was little, I had a white teddy bear. It wasn’t particularly special, but I liked to bring it with me everywhere around the house. Over time, the fur turned brown and it probably smelled, uh, ‘special’, but oddly, I just became more attached to it.
Now that I’m a parent, though, while I find it sweet that my daughter is very affectionate towards her motley collection of stuffed creatures, it’s hard not to wince when she grabs them with less-than-clean hands and plants kisses on them with food-smeared lips; or, worse, when she’s in a toy shop and attempts to hug and/or kiss various stuffed animals, all of which have probably been manhandled by countless other kids and have remnants of their DNA to show for it. But that’s the difference between kids and grown-ups: kids don’t think about practical things like dust, germs and stains — they just go with their heart.