Tuesday, March 30, 2010

In praise of Arnold Lobel

It's no secret that I love reading aloud to my children. It's one area of mothering where I consistently feel like I'm doing a pretty good job. If we accomplish nothing else of note in a day, at least we've read at least one good book together.

When Eliza was about three, she went through a big Frog and Toad phase. At that time, Ian was coming into his own as a reader, and I combed the stacks of beginning readers at the library for quality material. These stories satisfied both needs. Now Eliza herself is in that phase, and once again I reflect on how difficult it is to find Easy Readers that are a treat to behold, and just as delightful for the reading or listening adult as they for the reading or listening child.

Which is why I harbor a deep and abiding affection for Arnold Lobel. You can keep your Dr. Seuss. Give me instead a man who understands the value of wry, understated humor -- humor you can unwrap in layers. A child might think it's silly that Toad wants to write everything on a list and then cross it off -- an adult laughs knowingly, understanding that impulse with perfect sympathy. And so on. Every story in the Frog and Toad collection is a gem -- Lobel doesn't skip a beat.

But the fun doesn't stop there. Did you know that Frog and Toad starred in their very own Broadway Musical? It's called A Year with Frog and Toad, and my friends, it's more fun than a barrel of chimpanzees. Think Big Band-style sound mixed with musical retellings of Frog and Toad's greatest hits. If you step into our home and hear us warbling about Toad looking funny in a bathing suit or crowing, "IIIIIII am not AFRAAAAAAAAIIIID! Well, I am, but I'll be brave!" -- no need for alarm. We're just channeling our amphibious friends.

Mr. Lobel's lesser-known works turn out to be just as steeped in both subtle and uproarious wit. Here are a couple favorites:
Owl at Home (I Can Read Book 2)
Mouse Tales (I Can Read Book 2)
Uncle Elephant (I Can Read Book 2)

They're all a treat. Do yourself a favor and share one with the nearest child in your life. If that child happens to be you, so be it. Permission to giggle aloud hereby granted.

[Disclaimer: When I was high school, my childhood friend Joe told me that I had an "odd" and "acute" sense of humor. Just thought you should have all the relevant facts before proceeding.]

P.S. This post is linked to SteadyMom's 30 Minute Blog Challenge. Whew! Right under the wire, too!


Tim said...

Wonderful post and a great topic!
It's a great CD with many catchy tunes. I'll always associate it with our trip through the hill country to visit the Blue Bell creamery in Brenham and the convent where nuns raise miniature horses.
Could we even call Arnold Lobel's children's books great literature? He effectively treats big themes in an easy-reader book. I don't care if I never read another Thomas the Tank Engine picture book, but Frog and Toad are my friends for life.

Bear Creek Mama said...

I have always disdained easy reader books but NEVER Frog & Toad. I have the fondest of memories reading the stories countless - I mean really countless, times when Ethan & Hannah were about 2 & 3. they practically had them memorized by the time they were actually learning to read for themselves. My favorite? Definitely "Cookies", but I also love "Spring" and the list goes on and on. Looking forward to the day that our new children can follow a story long enough to enjoy these wonderful tales and to revisit some old friends!

Anonymous said...

Hannah, thanks for you comment! I had just been enjoying your entertaining blog yesterday, actually. The pictures of your cute kids alone are enough to bring me back. However, in addition to darling little ones, you write so well.

And, in answer to your question: no. It didn't take me that long. :)

Stephanie said...

Thanks for another great book/author tip! This is one that we have missed.

Vanessa said...

Sounds like a set of books I need to check out at the library. I always enjoy reading your reviews hannah. I'm with Tim, I don't care if I ever read a Thomas the Train book again! Maybe Frog and Toad will become my friends for life too ;)

Aiming4Simple said...

We are huge Lobel fans too! We love his books but have yet to see the Frog and Toad musical. I'll have to look again and see if it's playing anywhere near us.

Julie said...

I can't wait to try these books, thanks for another wonderful tip!

Kristy@life-simplicitas said...

You couldn't ask for a better friendship than Frog and Toad's! I also love Mouse Tales. Thanks for checking out my blog!