I don’t have any children of my own, but I’m in my mid-thirties, so perhaps unsurprisingly, I often feel surrounded by them – local friends, pictures on social media, my own niece and nephews. One of the unexpected benefits of being in this station of life is that I have rediscovered how wonderful children’s literature is. I’ve always loved to read and thought the stories were good when I was a kid, but some of the lessons in today’s popular books are downright amazing. I’ve compiled a list of my favorites because I think this is good – energy, for lack of a better word – to put out into the world. And let’s be honest, we are never too old for a good story.
What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada: I keep a copy of this book in my office for inspiration. It is a really lovely story of a little boy and how he learns to manage his idea, represented as a gold ball (the illustrations by Mae Besom are stellar). When I am thinking about research ideas, and I feel stuck or unsure about what I’m doing or where I am going, I re-read this book. It never fails to make me feel moved and motivated, and confident and fortified to stay the path.
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister: This is an old one – I remember reading it myself in elementary school – but I recently bought it for a friend’s daughter and rediscovered it in the process. The illustrations are beautiful, and who doesn’t love a little sparkle? But more than that, the story is a fantastic reminder that we all should share our shine. There is a real analogy here for women in medicine, one that reinforces how we need to support each other and lift each other up, not try to take each other down. There is room for all of us to succeed.
The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt: The more times I re-read this story, the more I love it. It cleverly showcases the relevance and importance of every color crayon in the box. Interpreted more broadly, it’s a good reminder that we all bring something valuable to the table. When I first started attending, sometimes I would struggle with meetings I sat in on, feeling that I didn’t have anything helpful or productive to add. That feeling has lessened with time, and a few years in, it’s easier for me to see that my perspective is valuable simply because it’s mine, because no one else in the room comes to the topic from the same place that I do. This book reminds all of us that we are important.
Ada Twist, Scientist by Andrea Beaty: I like this whole series of books (the other two are Rosie Revere, Engineer and Iggy Peck, Architect). They are great stories set to witty rhymes, and the illustrations by David Roberts are excellently detailed without being too busy. I particularly appreciate the nod to diversity in STEM, a topic close to my heart, and I love that for boys and girls growing up today, it’s no big deal to see a female in the field. Of all the books, though, Ada is my favorite because she is curious AND persistent, a good role model for all of us.
Martha Ann and the Mother Store by Nathaniel and Betty Jo Charnley: I’ll close with this oldie but goody, though frankly I’m not sure it’s even in print anymore.* In short, Martha Ann gets frustrated with her mother, so she takes her to the store and swaps her out, and then proceeds to find fault with every other mother, too. It reads almost like a Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle story. It’s a funny reminder that perfection doesn’t exist, a lesson that I think every overachieving woman would be smart to remember.