Arnold Lobel is amoung my top ten favourite creators of children’s literature. The Frog and Toad series alone earns him this place. Lobel crafts quirky characters; anthropomorphizing much more than mere physical features by delving deep into the human heart. His narratives are at once sweet, snappy, vibrant and full of wry humour that leaves members of my family (whether three or thirty!) laughing out loud. What’s more to be said for Arnold Lobel, is that he accomplishes all this while using simple sentences and language for learners in these ‘I CAN READ’ books. It’s pure genius.
Recently, my son and I read Arnold Lobel’s Uncle Elephant for the first time. What a remarkable experience!
We felt sadness and sorrow: Mother and Father were missing at sea. I was alone. I sat in my room with the curtains closed.
<Enter Uncle Elephant.>
We laughed with deep joy: ‘VOOMAROOOM!’ They both trumpeted as loudly as they could. The lion was so afraid that every one of his teeth popped out.
In the same moment we held onto both sorrow and joy. In a sacred moment, laughter reverently held sadness by the hand.
I’m aware that readers contribute much to the experience of a story. So when Uncle Elephant trumpets in the dawn, I use my most loud and crazy and old elephant sounding voice possible as I flail my elephant arm trunk in front of my face: ‘VOOMAROOOM!’ My son laughs and laughs and asks to hear it again. ‘VOOMAROOOM!’
Mom, I love it when you make me laugh, he says.
I love it when you laugh, I say.
The thing is, with Arnold Lobel, the reader’s contribution comes naturally. Lobel makes it easy and mom gets all the credit!
There’s so much more to share about Uncle Elephant and the themes it addresses. Watch for a future post. For now, I leave you with the first of my Top Ten Creators of Children’s Literature.
How about you? Who’s on your Top Ten list? What are the quirky things you do to make a particular story come alive for your child(ren)? What’s your favourite Arnold Lobel story?