Telling Stories, Part 3

So another reason I’ve been thinking about telling stories is because I’ve been hearing them read out loud a lot recently, especially Big Truck and Little Truck, Little Blue Truck, and a beautifully illustrated version of Aesop’s fable about the lion and the mouse (actually, that last one isn’t “read” out loud because, well, there are no words on the pages; I guess you could say it is narrated creatively).

We had our 2-year-old nephew staying with us over the weekend, and let’s just say he tirelessly pursues story readers. And if you agree to read one of them, you better watch out!

Luckily, I’m not good at imitating animal or truck sounds, so sometimes I can beg off Little Blue Truck.

But I still heard them read many, many, many times over the course of three days, and it got me to thinking about how similar they are. Kind of like The Little Engine that Could (which (a) I always get confused with Thomas the Tank Engine and (b) seems like it should have the word “who” in the title, rather than “that”), these stories are all about little guys. I’m sure there are gal versions of the story, too, but these were all little guys who in some way or another are valuable, can make it without the bigger guys, or in fact offer something that the big guys need (small mouse being able to chew through the lion’s net, for example).

So the first thing I was thinking about is that these are books about self-esteem for little guys. (I was wondering about this because most of American culture, the workplace, movies, etc., are all about being the biggest, best, most beautiful. Or maybe it’s not. We just saw How to Train Your Dragon because it finally made it to the cheapy theatre. Maybe even our conception of American big-guy culture is a myth. But I’m not going to take the time to analyze this. Back to the focus-on-the-little-guy phenomenon.)

Okay, so they’re not about self-esteem, not really, not once you get beyond the protagonist-is-small feature of all of them. This probably stood out to me because our little nephew is small. Also, my older brother was always small growing up, and I was always enormous, at least from the age of 3 or so. 🙂

So the second thing I was thinking about these books is that they’re all about communities!

Of course they are.

The little guy is part of a community, he has something to offer to that community, and most of the time he can teach something to the big guy (much more politely than tends to happen in the adult “sticking it to The Man” culture we find ourselves in).

And the point of the books, you could say, is to teach our little ones that they, too, are part of communities.

I like this.

I might have to do some more research into popular kids’ books. What do you think?

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