We've been thinking a lot over here at Penny Candy Books about just how important the books we read as kids have been in our lives—and the responsibility we have as publishers to engender dialogue rather than present the world in black and white. We want our books to raise questions, not to create unwavering answers (except, actually, when it comes to hate. We don't have time for hate). We get excited about multiple interpretations—books that can be walked around like holograms, seen from multiple perspectives.
A lot of the books we read as kids are interpreted by our parents, or through our parents' lenses. Take The Giving Tree, one of my all-time favorites, for example. My mom's interpretation of this story: be selfless, give of yourself to make others happy. My interpretation: don't take advantage of another's kindness; don't give so much of yourself that you're left a stump for sitting on.
These are wildly different interpretations of Silverstein's story (and there are plenty more)—I never thought it was fair that the tree kept giving of herself just to win the boy's approval, not even when my mom told me the tree was doing the right thing. Silverstein was a complex man, and so are his stories. All of these ideas are in conversation with each other. The story is simply told, but it is not simple. The Giving Tree gave me the opportunity to develop my own theories about self, selfhood, selfishness, and selflessness.
Here are two books that make use of kids' books lessons:
We'd love to hear about the lessons you've carried with you from your childhood reading. Please post a comment! We'll continue to add to our list of influences in our Life Lessons category.
Here's to the kid in all of us,