Tuesday, June 6, 2017

About STRIFE and STRIVING

There is a spiritual notion that the reason for suffering in this world is so we may experience moments of happiness. After all, if we were blissful at all times, how would we even know it?
 
Most modern picture books are based on a similar notion. There has to be a problem. It is better if the stakes are high, and the problem is a BIG problem. There must be an attempt to solve the problem. The formula recommends three attempts increasing in intensity before the resolution. Striving and struggling leads to a happy or satisfying ending.
 
Reading stories works as a catharsis. The reader and listeners undergo a whole cycle of worldly strife in a few minutes. It also serves pedagogically as a map for struggle and triumph over what all of us go through and will continue to go through as long as we live.
 
 
But recently I found myself reading some picture books that were of a different stripe. They were written years ago, and it’s easier to locate them in a library where deaccession isn’t frequent, or in collectors’ bookstores.
 
 
DS gave me just such a gem he found in a specialized bookstore. A PENNY AND A PERIWINKLE by Josephine Haskell Aldridge was published in 1961. The main character has no conflict, and, in fact, pushes senseless stimulation away. It is meditation about being content with a simple and purposeful life.  
 

It was a gift for my birthday, and I’ve read and re-read it almost every day since. I think young kids would love it.

 

I wish there were many more like it on the market.


15 comments:

  1. What an interesting review. You've piqued my curiosity. Sometimes I, too, get tired of the formulaic three-pronged conflict, climax, resolution that seems obligatory these days, when I can remember reading books as a child that just went on and on with exciting encounters and then ended. (Alice in Wonderland comes to mind, but there were others, as well.) I'll have to look up A Penny and a Periwinkle.

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  2. I commented earlier, but it didn't go through. This sounds like such an intriguing book. You piqued my interest to the point that I looked it up and almost fainted. What a lovely gift for your birthday: This is a very expensive book these days—anywhere from $28.00 to $50.00 at some sites. Maybe I'll peruse libraries and see if there are any copies available. I'm in favor of gentle books that don't always follow the mandatory "three acts and a resolution" formula. Often those are the ones one rereads for different reasons that finding out if the protagonist trumps over evil, etc.

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    1. The bookstore where he found it does carry mostly "collectibles." But I'm sure there is a less precious way to obtain this precious story. Considering how many times I've re-read it, it's still a bargain.

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  3. I love stories that aren't formulaic. When we watched West World, Willy Dunne Wooters got pissed off because some of the robots didn't follow the "rules" for robot behavior in science fiction books. I don't know the rules. I simply enjoyed the show.

    Love,
    Janie

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  4. I'm all for variety in children's books. There are all kinds of people, so why wouldn't there be a need for lots of different styles of PBs?

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  5. That's really interesting! Now I want to read it.

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  6. Start the revolution, Mirka. I agree. I get tired of the formulaic approach to picture books.

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  7. Great thoughts and perspective. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. I wish there was more room in the market for different ways of telling stories. Formulaic stories are often good sellers, but I agree that they get tiresome. Maybe some brave self-publishers will start a new trend in picture books.

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    1. ...Or revive some of the older trends. The book I featured didn't follow the formula.

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  9. Perhaps the editors then were of a different generation?? It's nice to read something quite different.

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  10. I've noticed the same thing about older books. The Betsy-Tacy books, a favorite from my childhood, don't often have a typical climax or resolution. I think I'd like this book. You sold me when you said it was about contentment. I just saw it's at my library!

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  11. Interesting. I've discovered, on one of my many happy sessions at the library, that there really are many sorts of stories and arcs in children's fiction.

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  12. I miss those old picture books with their deceptively simple story lines. This one looks like a gem, and what a thoughtful gift. Don't kids have enough conflict in their lives these days?

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