Friday, June 13, 2014

Friends by Eric Carle

Friends by Eric Carle

Rating: 3.5 stars

Should children's books (specifically, picture books) end with the two characters getting married?

This is the question that is bouncing around my head.  My star rating is arbitrary.  What's more important: will this book provide an interesting, worthwhile conversation between my children and myself?

I'm getting ahead of myself--it's something I do so very well, it's hard not to do!  But let me explain this new Eric Carle book to you, in case you've not seen it before…

With minimal words and bright, welcoming illustrations on big, oversized pages, Eric Carle introduces a simple friendship between a boy and a girl.  The boy, who also serves as the narrator, has a good friend.  They do everything together!  They play together!  They dance together!  They hold hands, they tell each other secrets.  They are best friends.

Then, suddenly, the girl disappears.  The reader is not told why; for better or for worse, we're left to guess.

"…and they got married."
And the boy-narrator decides: he must find her.  The biggest chunk of the book illustrates his search--he climbs tall mountains, swims through cold rivers, gazes up at the starry night skies actively searching for his long, lost friend.  He walks across a field of flowers and must sense her prescience because the bouquet he gathers up in this pretty field is given…to her.

And then they get married.  (Okay, as you can see from the picture, they are still kids and are wearing dress-up clothes.  But STILL!)

Hmm.  I would have been happier without that final page.  But wait: is this book written not for 4-6 year olds but 40-60 year olds?  Do I want Lorelei and Ben to Kiefer to look at their pals today and say to them, also today, "I'm going to marry you!"  That sort of schoolyard talk is already present, I guess.  Do I want to add to it?  Or should I start the conversation about what sort of mate they should look for?

A friend is a very good start, indeed.  I read a book last year that urged us parents (especially us children of divorce who are now parents) to start talking with their kids early about what sort of person makes a good friend.  And to urge those kids to choose deliberately when they choose a friend.  What I tell my kids is this: Choose a person who makes you laugh, who is kind to you, who genuinely cares for you--not just your physical whereabouts like the boy in Friends but also if you're happy or sad, and what you want to be when you grow up.

Tricky business, this friend-finding and partner-pairing.  I guess starting earlier is better.

But maybe we could wait for the tween years (at least!) to begin talk of the whole wedding day with the poofy white dress?

No comments:

Post a Comment