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Monday, May 03, 2010

The Arnold Lobel Phase

arnold lobel owl at home children's book review audio CDWe just got over the Arnold Lobel phase.

Thanks to Nana, we got the Arnold Lobel story collection CD read by Mark Linn-Baker which set us off on a sweet journey of discovering the neurotic Owl, the happy-go-lucky Grasshopper, dear old Uncle Elephant, not to mention the Frog and Toad. Plus Small Pig and Giant John.

Not having grown up with children's books, I have a child-like fascination for them. I guess I get as much (or more) from the books as the kids do... Anyway, Arnold Lobel's books have a certain unmistakable charm that is hard to ignore, even if it is intended for a different generation.

The simple text makes it easy for my beginner reader to read aloud, while letting the toddler follow along quite happily. However, the choice of words, the nuances, the flow is simply brilliant for the adult reader. Just as it is evident that each of the words in Dr.Seuss' works is picked and placed for a reason, it is clear that Lobel's books are crafted with similar care and ingenuity.

The CD I played, repeatedly, by request, during commutes, has led to many interesting chats with Ana. And, reading the books, looking at the characteristic illustrations was just as much fun.

arnold lobel owl at home children's book review audio CD harper collinsOwl At Home stories seem to incite the most active response from her. And, this happens to be my personal favorite as well. The language, simple and childlike, is quite powerful, not to mention the portrayal of Owl himself, who, while appearing to be a sort of worry-wart retains a certain innocence that is quite endearing. The description here resonates well with my thoughts on this.

Tearwater Tea is so brilliant in my mind - to think of all the things that make Owl sad, so he can collect enough tears to make tea! In the process, we end up coming up with a few things of our own, a few neglected things that is indeed sad. Like the heels of sliced loaf of bread which get cruelly tossed away.

"Well, if he let the Winter come in, he should know everything will become ice, right Amma?".
"That was rude to slam the door and say Never Come Back. He can say that politely".
"Maybe the two bumps are goblins hiding under the blanket".
"If he were as tall as the house, like he was a giant, then maybe he can be upstairs and downstairs at the same time".
"Mashed Potatoes not getting eaten is not sad. They are yucky. Maybe if they are not mashed, but baked with cheese on they won't be left on the plate".

Grasshopper on the Road is just as interesting. The carefree grasshopper seemed antithetic to the Owl we grew to love.
"If I had a club, I would welcome everybody, even if they loved afternoon and evening, not just morning".
"It is nice to do something different every day, not the same thing that will be boring".

Uncle Elephant seems genial enough, but, not as captivating as the Owl.

However, the Small Pig seems to have made a mark on her. His love for mud bath and adventure are possibly the reason :)
"How did he get stuck in the sidewalk? Did they have to break the sidewalk to get the small pig out?"

Frog and Toad, the original classic Lobel did not make as much an impression, but, that's OK. Neither did Mouse Tales.

While not a series, Giant John is a simple tale, much enjoyed by the 5- and 2-yr old alike.

After weeks of immersion, we seem to have reached the saturation point. While we have stopped reading more Lobel, for now, I am sure his books have not stopped lingering with us just yet.

All in all, I enjoyed the discovery. Thanks, Nana, for introducing us to one of the masters.

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