Steve Wiley Recommends Three Cool Kids Books with Important Messages

Steve Wiley is Jackalope Ranch's Parent Hood. He's a slightly unorthodox father of five who will weigh in weekly with his mildly-rebellious views and observations. If you'd like to see how he came to write this column, watch the intro video. This week he recommends three kids' books with phenomenal messages.

Christopher Robin Should Have Had It So Good

When it comes to children's books, my kids are lucky. They get the best. Our house is a veritable library of awesome creations from which to choose.

Why? Because of Teacher Beth, the matriarch of Wileysworld, and Aunt Katie, her sister and frequent Wileysworld visitor. You see, both of them have spent nearly their entire lives teaching and developing children in classrooms, in child study labs, and of course, in the home. When it comes to picking out great kid's books, they are both connoisseurs.

So over the years, I've read some pretty good stuff. I've seen some smokin' art too. For all you young pups that have kids on the way, here's three sweet children's books that The Parent Hood recommends, and the important lessons of each.

See also:
- Parenthood: Home Schooling My Kids with Jon Stewart and the Daily Show
- Parenthood: A Little League of Our Own: The Irony of a Rebellious Coach

What's the Morale of the Story, Dad?
Just like when I'm watching TV with my kids (see Home Schooling with The Daily Show), when I'm reading books to my kids (which these days is primarily my youngest daughter), I try to take time to highlight life lessons that lie within the story.

Along those lines, each of these three books are tremendous creative vehicles for delivering what I feel is a very important message.

Orange tree for new times.jpg
Steve Wiley
3. The Big Orange Splot (Story and Art by Daniel Manus Pinkwater)

Our house has an orange tree in the front yard. Not "orange tree" like a citrus tree ... we actually have an ORANGE tree (see the pic). It was painted by my lovely wife, who brought this book into our lives very early, along with it's magnificent message: Be yourself and follow your dreams.

The book tells the story of Mr. Plumbean, who lives in a meticulous neighborhood that all looks the same, just the way the neighbors like it. When a seagull mysteriously drops a bucket of orange paint on Plumbean's house, rather than paint over it, he adds glorious colors and animals and plants and makes it just the way he truly loves it.

Of course, the neighbors think Plumbean has "flipped his lid", and they send a representative to talk some sense into him. However, after they drink lemonade into the night, the neighbor turns his house into a ship. This happens to each neighbor in turn, until the neighborhood is the bastion of individuality.

You could say that this book and its theories have influenced our careers, our family decisions, and most importantly, our time. It's a principle that moved us from the HOAs of Chandler to the wacky world of Tempe. It's the philosophy thats helped a once conservative guy like me to be OK with a piece of art in the front yard. It's a philosophy that we hope our kids will always embrace.



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