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.