It’s no surprise that children’s books contain a moral to their stories, how else would we teach kids anything if they didn’t? However, some books, in particular, have captured their message so profoundly, that even grown adults like myself have heeded to their simplistic advice.
This beautiful story, which was shortlisted for The Children’s books of The Year Awards by the CBCA, is the story of a little girl who is ready to find her own place because she is simply too big for the home she’s grown up in.
After building the most fantastical tree house (that will make your inner child squeal with delight) the character’s father obligingly builds her a series of things to make her new home comfortable.
When it’s time for Dad to go home, the little girl suddenly realises the scary reality of having a house of her own. She frets about keeping warm, getting sick, not having anything to eat, and scaring the birds with sneezes; things that most adults eventually stress about (except for maybe the birds). Fortunately, Dad is happy to keep her old home open and they merrily skip off to eat soup together.
Hughes’ and Bentley’s story tells of the yearning for independence and growing up, and the sometimes terrifying reality of getting exactly what you want. The tale cautions the audience not to grow up too fast because you won’t be prepared for the strange reality of independence until you’re older.
The moral of the story: Don’t grow up too fast
I will openly admit that I am an Oliver Jeffers enthusiast; his stories of adventure and heart-warming truths get me all welled up and excited. The Way Back Home is no exception.
When a little boy finds a plane in his cupboard, he immediately decides to fly it as far into space as possible. Unfortunately, he breaks down somewhere on the moon. The adventure, up until this point, has been exhilarating and exciting, but suddenly it’s scary. There are things that go bump and his flashlight is almost dead.
As fate would have it, someone else is also serendipitously stranded on the moon; a little alien and his ship. The characters immediately bond over their situation and work out a plan to make their way back home.
Jeffers’ has this fantastic knack for bringing characters together in the most unique and empathetic of ways, and when the boy and the alien agree that the boy should jump back down to earth to the things they need (take that, astrophysics), there’s already a wonderful sense of camaraderie. Human error (aka his favourite TV programme) temporarily stops him during the mission, but suddenly the boy springs back into action and climbs the highest mountain to a rope, working his way back up to the moon.
The notion of teamwork and helping others, regardless of where they’re from, is a very important moral to share with children. Kindness is what Jeffers values and it shines through in this story. The fact that this kindness between our two main characters escalates into a friendship of intergalactic proportions proves that it’s a universal language.
The moral of the story: Treat others how you want to be treated.
Ronojoy Ghosh’s playful and curious character, Ollie, has a new friend. However, his new friend is difficult to understand and play with. When the wind steals Ollie’s hat, and then his scarf, he struggles to comprehend the winds motives.
There’s this notion that the wind might just be “naughty” because it doesn’t want to play; rather, it wants to steal Ollie’s things.
When the wind steals Ollie’s balloon, he understands that maybe the wind does just want to play, so he attempts to work out what the wind wants.
He tries chess, throwing a ball, and even his favourite truck.
Dumbfounded by the wind, Ollie eventually works it out. Maybe a kite!
The final page in the story, when Ollie is running around with a kite blowing in the night sky, is probably one of my personal favourite pages of any children’s book. The joy that children experience when they figure something out or discover something new is phenomenal. Ghosh’s ability to move simply between Ollie’s frustration and sudden elation is both infectious and delightful.
Rather than getting worked up about not understanding something, Ollie strives to resolve the problem. If you don’t understand something, you’re not a failure, you just need to keep trying to learn; what a brilliant message for children.
The moral of the story: Experience is the best way to learn
Olivia absolutely loves her best toy, but when it goes missing, everyone is a suspect.
After searching high and low (and even under the cat!) she finds it was her dog that stole it. Worse still, he chewed it up!
Even though Olivia’s mother explains to her that’s what dogs do and he didn’t know it was her best toy, she isn’t easily consoled. Despite her parent’s promises to get her the very best toy in the world tomorrow, to replace her well-loved friend, Olivia decides that there’s an alternative solution.
Rather than sulking and waiting to replace what was her best toy, Olivia decides to fix her best toy, and even goes so far to add a bow for extra beauty. Although she’s still mad at her dog and decides to only read books about cats before bedtime, Olivia eventually forgives him and lets him share the bed.
Falconer is exposing children to not only forgiving those you love but also understanding things from their perspectives. Olivia’s dog has no understanding of what the toy meant to her, so it’s incomprehensible to him why she should be mad about him destroying something that is extremely chewable. The opportunity to rebuild the toy makes it more sentimental and lovable for Olivia because she has shared a new experience with this toy and been able to improve it.
The moral of the story: Try and see things from someone else’s perspective.
By Chelsea-Lee Elliott