By Dee Donavanik, Publicity Director
There has been lots of discussion about why YA books are gaining popularity among adult audiences, especially as several blockbuster adaptations are hitting the theaters. We’ve accepted that YA books have mass appeal and are not just for “young adults,” but what about the books from our childhood? Maybe it would serve us well to go a bit farther back and revisit the stories we loved as kids. When life gets hectic and we start to get cynical, we can think back on some classic tales to remind us of the bigger picture.
Here are some of my personal favorites and the lessons I learned (though there are many interpretations). Also SPOILER ALERT if you’ve never read any of these classics.
THE GIVING TREE by Shel Silverstein
Summary: Tree loves boy. Boy grows up, wanting and taking more and more from the tree until there is nothing left but a stump. Even when the boy comes back as an old man, the tree is happy to give him a place to sit.
Lesson: Unconditional love. Be grateful. Call your mom!
ALEXANDER AND THE TERRIBLE, HORRIBLE, NO GOOD, VERY BAD DAY by Judith Viorst
Summary: Alexander wakes up and things are bad. Things get worse.
Lesson: Life isn’t always perfect and sometimes you just have to deal with it.
THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR by Eric Carle
Summary: A baby caterpillar is hungry. He eats and eats until he feels sick. Eventually he goes into a cocoon and becomes a beautiful butterfly.
Lesson: First of all, don’t overeat. Secondly, life changes can be difficult, but eventually you’ll become who you’re supposed to be.
WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak
Summary: A young boy named Max in a wolf costume is being troublesome and is then sent to bed without supper. His bedroom turns into jungle of sorts and he ends up on an island full of “wild things.” He intimidates the creatures and becomes the king, but eventually decides to go home to find dinner waiting for him.
Lesson: Use your imagination and be creative, but make sure you stay grounded.
THE VELVETEEN RABBIT by Margery Williams
Summary: A stuffed rabbit dreams of becoming real, but is looked over in favor of fancier toys. Eventually as his young owner grows to love him, a fairy turns him into a real rabbit.
Lesson: To be real we must genuinely be ourselves, and when we’re truly ourselves is when we can be truly loved.
CORDUROY by Don Freeman
Summary: A teddy bear in a department store is dismissed by a young girl’s mother for having a button missing from his overalls. He searches everywhere trying to find a way to fix himself, but is unsuccessful. The little girl returns the next day with her own money to buy the bear anyway, and takes him home where she helps sew on a new button.
Lesson: True friends will help you when they’re needed and accept you for who you are.
IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE by Laura Joffe Numeroff
Summary: Boy gives cookie to mouse. Mouse asks for milk, then straw, then a plethora of other things until he ends up asking for another cookie.
Lesson: Be generous, but don’t let people take advantage of you.