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Walk On

Cover

Written and Illustrated by Marla Frazee

Harcourt, Inc., 2006

Is sitting there on your bottom getting boring?

The plot in a nutshell:  Lessons on how to start walking.

If you’re a baby and you’re tired of just sitting around, maybe it’s time to start walking. The first step, of course, is to stand up. It’s best to find something to support yourself until you’re ready to stand without support. Once you’re standing, find your balance and then let go of your support and stand all on your own. And don’t worry about falling down. That happens to everyone.  When you’re ready to go to the next level, make sure you’re ready and your surroundings are prepared, then look straight ahead and start by taking that first step, then the next and before you know it, you’re walking!

Bookshelf favorite Marla Frazee scores again in this wonderful and motivating book, which is delightfully relevant to anyone in the process of trying something new. I love the framework of literal first steps to symbolize the important things you need to do before any major endeavor, such as finding balance, leaning on others for support until you’re ready to go it alone and of course, getting back up from the inevitable falls. With all that in mind, however, I imagine that the book is also very appealing to kids, especially those who have younger siblings learning to walk.

Stand up

Hang in there, Baby!

The illustrations, done in pencil and gouache, are as adorable as I have come to expect from Ms. Frazee, who has an amazing ability to show depth of expression in this baby’s face. We see lots of familiar emotions reflected here, including fear, frustration, determination, confidence and the joy of accomplishment. I don’t think it’s an accident that on the final page, the baby is walking away from the reader, gently reminding parents that every milestone moves your baby toward to the goal of independence, which also moves them away from you. I really enjoyed this book and its message.

And what did we learn?  What I take away from this book is that every big accomplishment starts with one single decision to get moving.

Fish is Fish

cover

Written and Illustrated by Leo Lionni

Alfred A. Knopf, 1970

At the edge of the woods there was a pond, and there a minnow and a tadpole swam among the weeds. They were inseparable friends.

The plot in a nutshell: A fish dreams of life beyond his pond.

The friendship between the tadpole and the minnow changes when the tadpole grows legs and becomes a frog. He goes off to see the world and comes back to tell the fish about what he’s seen. As he describes birds and cows and people, the fish imagines them as looking very fish-like and he badly wants to explore the world and see them for himself. So he gathers up all his courage and leaps out of the pond, landing on the ground nearby and gasping for air, since he is unable to breathe out of the water. The frog comes back and pushes him back into the water and the fish appreciates his pond and his existence as a fish in a whole new way.

Once again, author/illustrator Leo Lionni uses animals to tell a contemporary fable with a life lesson inside it. I have seen some criticism of the book from people who interpret the book to be suggesting that we accept our lot in life without trying to rise above our station or reach for our dreams. I disagree with this assessment and feel that it’s more along the lines of the Serenity Prayer, which calls for acceptance of things we cannot change. The fish in this story puts his life in danger seeking an unattainable goal and when he receives (again from the Serenity Prayer) ‘the wisdom to know the difference,’ he discovers a way to find joy in what he has. Looking at it this way, it feels like a good message.

fish-birds

Would this animal taste like fish or fowl?

The illustrations are wonderful, especially in the pictures were we get to see how the fish is imagining the creatures that the frog has seen. I think it’s a neat touch that the fish sees everything as a modified type of fish, showing the limitations of his experiences, yet they are vibrant and colorful, showing that he has the capacity for thinking beyond those limitations. It’s a clever way of reminding the reader how often we see things through our own personal filters. This book has recently been re-released as a Step Into Reading book (Step 3) for those ready to start reading on their own.

And what did we learn? What I take away from this book is that always wanting something more distracts you from appreciating what you already have.

“There is more …

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.”

– Walt Disney