Title Tidbits from the Children’s Room

Nowadays it does seem as a children’s librarian that there is a growing trend to use picture books as bibliotherapy, especially when it comes to discipline.  Daniel Zalewski, a features editor, at the New Yorker discusses this at length in his essay “The Defiant Ones,” in the October 19, 2009 issue.  Zalewski  reviews a fine sampling of titles (DCPL owns) that reflect the current parenting zeitgeist in an age where “a favorite way of inculcating discipline is the reading of picture books.”

Many new picture books portray a world turned upside down; it’s a world where the child runs the show.  The parents in these books have no choice but to throw themselves at the mercy of their children’s mischief. Parents are presented as concerned, frustrated, bewildered, but clearly not in charge.  This is a world where parents are more likely to obey their children.  It was not always so.  “The parents in picture books used to be tougher;”  Zalewski cites older “tougher” authors the likes of Russell Hoban, Robert McCloskey, Ludwig Bemelmans, Dr. Seuss, The Reys,… 

Zalweski ends by recommending the books of contemporary author Kevin Henkes for children’s misbehavior.  Of “Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse,” he comments, “Henkes’s book is squarely traditional in its message, yet in the context of modern picture books its confidence in the idea that your children are capable of sympathy—even moral growth—feels positively radical.” No matter what one feels, the essay reminds us just how much books for the very young do matter; they matter very, very much.  And books help children create a framework of understanding and expectation of their place in the family.