Crying over Picture Books

My son encountered Our Tree Named Steve (Alan Zweibel, illustrated by David Catrow, illustrator) at school, and was very pleased to find it our library yesterday. I'd never heard of it myself, and was a tad doubtful--shades, as it were, of The Giving Tree, I thought. But Steve is no codependent looser, and by the time he performs his great act of heroism (falling so as to avoid causing great damage) I was sniveling.

The book that really gets me, though, is Roxaboxen (Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney. In case you don't know this book, it tells of a group of children playing in a vacant piece of land on the edge of a desert town, making a town for themselves of rocks and scrap wood, boxes and broken glass. The book ends with the children, now grown old, still treasuring their memories of Roxaboxen. My children like this book immensely--they enjoy the story of the games the book's children played, but when we approach the end, and I start weeping, they become a bit impatient with me. In both these books, the sadness comes from loosing one's own childhood, and also the approaching loss to adulthood of one's own children, things beyond the comprehension of the average 5 year old.*

I can't remember a picture book that made me cry when I was a child. I remember lots that were emotionally powerful and heart wrenching and required hard leaning into the arms of the reading parent (Are You My Mother?) but I don't remember crying. I will have to ask my mother if she remembers an instances.

I asked my oldest boy today if he had ever cried over a book, and he said he never had. I hope that some day he will (because I think this is one of the things that should happen when you read great books) But there's lots of time.**

*There are also a few picture books in which people or animals die (The Clown of God, by Tomie dePaola, Goodbye, Mog, by Judith Kerr) which are good for a few sniffs from me, but which don't elicit the same response from my boys. My mind has now taken a rather twisted path -- what if, for instance, the Owl Mother in Owl Babies never did come home?

**The idea of purposefully picking books that will cause your child to cry is hideous. But the idea of picking a book or video that will cause oneself or adult loved ones to cry is not. And I suppose that there are parents of independent readers that hand their children Old Yeller or Of Mice and Men or some such, knowing what is going to happen. I will always remember the night my 12 year old sister read Of Mice and Men.

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