It’s almost over. 2020 is almost done. As we take stock of (or understandably block out) the past year and think about moving into the next one, advertising and media will bombard us with ideas for getting in shape, improving our careers, or finding love. While the plans and products for dramatic transformation are always tempting, they can also be pricey. If you’re searching for a little clarity or inspiration, children’s stories often contain the straightforward wisdom we crave.
When things are complicated, simple messages are soothing. Blocking out all that we cannot control and focusing on what we can control helps us navigate prolonged challenges. However, determining what should get our attention and action can be confusing. Sometimes, everything seems important or urgent. The world gets noisy and inspiration is hard to find.
Children’s Stories Block out the Noise
As a mother and educator, one of my effective noise-blockers is children’s books. Stories for children share simple narratives with great depth that are beautifully or cleverly illustrated. These stories can feel sustaining to our spirits in a complex world.
Below are five books that combine the power of creative expression with the work of perseverance. They are stories about facing unexpected events, coping with all the feelings that come with them, and taking action to move through to a better state. As 2020 comes to an end, these children’s stories spark hope about humanity’s ability to endure and overcome.
Harold and the Purple Crayon by Crockett Johnson
Written in 1955, the story of Harold and his crayon holds up under passing years and a dramatically changed world. Harold, drawing his way in out and out of trouble, is still relevant in our digitized, fast-paced lives. He teaches us how to problem-solve, and his placid expression reminds us to remain calm while we do it.
The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein
This children’s story revolves around a triangle on a voyage of self-discovery and independence. The triangle tries to find happiness and uncovers many things that do not work. The triangle tries again, -and again and again. Eventually, the triangle succeeds but that actually feels secondary to the adventure along the way.
This story is also about healthy relationships. If your goals for 2021 include finding love, this book has a great message about partnership.
Ish by Peter H. Reynolds
After humiliating criticism from his brother, Ramon has to learn to love drawing again. With wise and kind-hearted action, his little sister helps him to rediscover his artistic inspiration. This children’s story is a warning against perfectionism. It’s also a reminder about finding freedom and beauty that is possible when we block out the haters (or in this case, just insensitive older brothers) and love ourselves without condition.
What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
Steeped in metaphor and elaborately illustrated, What Do You Do with an Idea? represents an “idea” in the form of an imaginary creature that wants attention and will not go away. The story illustrates that having an idea is not easy, but something joyous happens when it transforms into reality.
Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
While truly great stories appeal to all ages, this three-dimensional book is ideal for small children. Bold illustrations and textured pages beg the reader to touch, pull, and play. The story is a message of how to see mistakes as opportunities. In doing so, our world becomes one marked by possibility.
Happiest of New Years to Artistic Fuel readers. May all your unexpected turns become sources of possibility!
Betsy Scotto-Lavino is the Director of Education and Research for The Artistic Fuel Foundation. She is also a Ph.D. student, wife, mother of three, and a nature lover. If you can't find me, I'm probably in the woods.