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Sunday, 30 March 2014

2nd YOU READ IT LIKE WHAT?! Read-Aloud Recording Competition

We Read it Like This presents....

The 2nd Read-Aloud Recording Competition: YOU READ IT LIKE WHAT?! 
Illustration by Maurice Sendak for
Jewish Book Month, (Jewish Book Council), 1985
Last year, to celebrate We Read it Like This' second anniversary, we held the First You Read it Like What?! read-aloud recording competition.

After the success the first time round and many inquiries as to whether we were going organise the competition again this year, we have decided to launch the Second You Read it Like What?! competition. The prize? Two books of your choice from those reviewed on this site (books out of print not included; see list at the bottom of this post).

Instructions: 
1. Choose one of your favourite picture books
2. Practise reading it out loud (if you need to). 
3. Record it either with video or sound only
4. Upload it onto a site like dropbox or soundcloud.
5. Share the link with us in a comment at the end of this post and...
6. Send an email to youreaditlikewhat@gmail.com telling us a bit about yourself or yourselves, a photo if you like, and why you chose that book in particular. Please include the link to the recording in the email too. 
7. Recordings should be in English or in Spanish (if in Spanish please visit We Read it Like This' sister blog, Lo Leemos Así and enter the competition through that site). 
8. The recording can either be:
  • of a parent or other carer reading to a child or several children or 
  • of a teacher reading to a child or several children 
  • of a child reading to another child or parent or in a classroom to their friends.
9. Excitement encouraged and interaction (ooh¡ aaaah!) more than welcome.
10. The deadline for receiving entries is May 31st, 2014. No entries received after this date shall be considered. 
11.  Worldwide entries accepted. The only restrictions apply to language: English or Spanish (through Lo leemos así) only. 
12. All ages welcome.  
13. The winner will get a glamourous post featuring their prize recording plus 2 books to choose from the following books reviewed on We Read it Like This
14. Prize books chosen by winner will be sent to the address provided by them by email following the notification of the winner. 
15. Good luck!
16. The decision regarding the winner will be necessarily subjective and final.   

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The Fable Game: a game to read; a thousand books to play

The Fable Game, Enzo Mari (1965)
Our edition: Corraini Edizioni, 2011.


A fabulous suggestion for a rainy Saturday morning: a game to read; a thousand books to play. 

For those of you who don't know it, the simply complex The Fable Game by Enzo Mari is comprised of six thick, large cards, printed on both sides.



















Each side has a central scene and two side scenes which can be combined as one chooses, by means of a slot at the top and a slot at the bottom, composing suggested narrative routes, a succession of rooms or stages for navigating, going forwards, backwards and jumping from one to the other as needed, as the story unfolds in our minds and through our words while we play.  















The cards contain representations of approximately seventy fable motifs; forty five animals, the sun, the moon, an umbrella, a cage, trees, a boot, a tree trunk, bamboo, rocks, an apple, a pile of earth, a nest, two eggs. 

Hedgehog, apple, cage, crow, fox, stork.














Moon, night, cow, frog. 


Skull, lion with cub, big rock, small rock, another rock, a rifle.





























What I always find fascinating about this kind of book-game is to see the way design -when it's good- makes magic without the need to give any instructions. The Fable Game was a gift for my son. I gave it to him this morning, about three hours ago. We took it out of its folded box, checked to see how the cards slotted together. Then we made our first random composition. All I said was that The Fable Game was great for telling lots of different stories. Immediately, he said "let me do it! let me do it!", and he started with a story about the lion, who was angry with the rat because... and for the next few minutes built his story, first following the order of the visual sequences in place, but then gradually jumping from scene to scene, moving around the table, incorporating motifs as required for his story. When he finished, he wanted to disassemble it and reassemble it differently. And that's just what we did. And away he went again. This time the fox went out for a walk and bumped into a... And we've been at it all morning, with fights between the different animals, problems to be solved, solutions to be sought, and endings to be reached.

The first few times we put the cards together randomly and created stories from the suggested sequences. But then we started organising the cards to suit the story we fancied telling.  

To add yet another layer of fun, very much in the We Read it Like This style, we switched on our recorder while we were making up the stories and then listened to them. We have been having a great time all morning.

Then I came to write this post and my son continued to play with The Fable Game, this time using the stages as a doll's house for the figurines -in this case a set of smurfs- he spends all day playing with, making up stories and inventing dialogue. "It's like a doll's house, but with more characters and many more dangers", he said, very chuffed indeed.

A truly fabulous morning. One of many, I suspect.

The Fable Game is published by the Italian publisher Corraini Edizioni, with an introductory text in Italian, English, Spanish and Japanese.

(c) of the illustrations, Enzo Mari, 1965, Corraini Edizioni, 2011.
(c) of the text, Ellen Duthie, 2014. By all means copy it or reproduce it, but please be nice and quote your source (author and blog).  

Monday, 20 January 2014

Happy 25th Birthday, We're Going on a Bear Hunt!


This year it is twenty five years since the publication of the now classic We're Going on a Bear Hunt, by Michael Rosen, with illustrations by Helen Oxenbury.

It hardly comes as a surprise to me that it is precisely the review of this must-have picture book that receives, by far, the most visits of all the reviews on this site. Both in the original English, and in the wonderful Spanish translation, this is a story to share, to recite, to move about to, to act out and to chant. It's lots and lots of fun. Happy Birthday! And many many happy returns to the bookshelves.

Read our review of We're Going on a Bear Hunt here.

Listen to how we read it here:



For readers of Spanish: 
Read our review of the translated version (¡Vamos a cazar un oso!) here.

Read about how we used ¡Vamos a cazar un oso! in a philosophy for preschoolers session on fear here.

And click on how we read it in Spanish, here:

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Many Happy Returns, Where the Wild Things Are!

This month it is 50 years since Maurice Sendak gave children of then, now and tomorrow Where the Wild Things Are: a paper mirror for children to walk through in wonder and see portrayed their inner conflict between frustration, anger and incomprehension, on the one hand, and the need to accommodate a formally illogical but emotionally necessary mutual forgiveness, on the other.

Where the Wild Things Are is an ode to fantasy as a fundamental emotional and intellectual tool and to literature as a journey of flight which, far from leading to escapism, always returns us to land, sometimes with a bit of a bump.

Here is how Harper & Row announced the publication of the book back in 1963:
PDF taken from http://www.philnel.com/2013/10/15/wildthings/

[By the way, don't you just love a publisher addressing adults and talking of "any children who happen to be your friends"].  

Almost three years ago, this blog started out precisely with a review of Where the Wild Things Are. Back then, we described it as one of our absolute favourites, and said it had "a delightfully dreamlike, gripping text, with terrific pace, rhythm and musicality, combined with stunning pen and ink and watercolour illustrations that draw you into Max's world and make you want to leap up an dance the wild rumpus every time. It is a joy to read out loud".

My son was not yet two and at the time, and reading Where the Wild Things Are was all about the incredible resonance of the text. This is what we said: "It is one of those texts that flows effortlessly out of your mouth from the very first time you read it. Even as a very young baby, our son seemed to enjoy it, perking up with each exclamation mark and listening to the soft rolling musicality of other parts. The first bits that caught his attention and made him laugh were of course the "BE STILL!" and the "NOW STOP!" accompanied by suitably exaggerated authoritarian hand gestures and facial expressions from his parents, and, obviously, the wild rumpus, for which we made interesting drumming sounds, drawing it it out for a bit longer than usual. By the time he had learnt how to ask us to read bits again, he was into the monsters roaring their terrible roars and gnashing their terrible teeth and rolling their terrible eyes and showing their terrible claws again and again and again."  

Now, at the age of four and a half, all these elements are still very much present, but it is fascinating to see how he goes adding layer upon layer of understanding, and how his relationship with the book evolves. 

It is now that those other elements, more related to Sendak's subtle and mesmerising appeals to the unconscious, begin to appear. It is now that we start seeing and marvelling at how much Where the Wild Things Are manages to contain. It is not easy to overcome adult-imposed constraints that are often incomprehensible from a child's perspective. It is not easy for a child to strike a healthy balance between the struggle for their will and identity and their need to love and feel loved. We're not saying that Where the Wild Things Are provides solutions to these difficulties, but it certainly touches on them, and in ways that speak directly to children. Of course, a bit of a wild rumpus every now and then never hurts either!

Happy birthday, Where the Wild Things Are! And many, many, many Happy Returns!

Here is our recording of Where the Wild Things Are, with music and all. Enjoy!


Pippi Longstocking: a Character that Transcends Gender

One of the clearest indications that a children's literature character is well-developed and "good" is that the character makes children want to "play" being him or her. That the child reader wishes to take the character from their reading experience to an active play experience. "Shall we play X?"

I have always known that Pippi Longstocking is a fantastic character, but yesterday my son made me see that Pippi is so much more than just a well crafted character. She manages to transcend even gender barriers, making a boy who is just at the age where he is defining his gender identity and who has for some time now rejected the very idea of playing a female character, stop on the way to school on a cold and frosty winter morning and suggest: "Mummy, shall we play Pippi? I'll be Pippi and you can be Mr. Nilsson!" And so we played Pippi all the way to school, for the entire half hour it takes us to walk there every morning. I was instructed to play different roles every now and then. I was sometimes Mr. Nilsson, sometimes Tommy and sometimes Annika, but my son insisted on being Pippi from start to finish. 

When a character is so good, so interesting and so complex, gender becomes as secondary as hair colour. 

This came a day after my philosophy session with four year olds [in Spanish] where we spoke about wishes. We all talked about our greatest wishes. Almost without exception (there was one or two), every single girl in the group (16 of them) wanted to become a fairy or a princess and every single boy in the group wanted to be given a Lightning McQueen car as a present. (I quickly scheduled in an urgent session on gender identity!)   

And I suddenly thought of what I want for Christmas:

Children's literature publishers: please, please, please refrain from actively or passively contributing to the horrendous "genderisation" of childhood and look out for well crafted, interesting, complex characters beyond their gender instead. There is no excuse. Genderising literature should be a punishable offence. 

To children's bookshops: please, please, please do not even think of classifying books by gender, with the excuse that it's "what the market wants". There is no excuse for it either and it should also be a punishable offence. 

Parents: please take a closer look at the false claim that girls are genetically determined to like pink and make-up and boys are genetically determined to like cars, speed and competing. Give them a chance to focus on who they really are and who they'd really like to become. Give them plenty of chances to read about characters of their gender and the opposite gender behaving in non-stereotyped ways. Plenty of chances, lots of them, because you'll need them to counteract the bombarding of stereotypes they are subjected to every single day. 

In brief, all I want for Christmas is: 

A literature with interesting characters, beyond gender stereotypes (well, seeing as I'm asking, I might as well say beyond stereotypes full stop). 

A world of interesting people, with interesting personalities, above and beyond their gender.

That's what I want for Christmas, but I'm likely to get a big wet raspberry instead, I know. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

Varying quality: when dark and stormy nights are enlightening

Many interesting things have been written about the benefits of bad literature (check out this, for example) and I'm not about to write an essay about it myself, but today I had the chance to see a live example of how it can be good for children to be exposed to literature of varying quality. Exposing children to a few bad books among the wonderful books one buys or one tends to pay attention to in libraries can help them develop their judgement.

As soon as anyone mentions 'bad literature' or, in this case 'bad children's literature', there is always someone who puts their finger up indignantly to ask how exactly one might define bad literature, suggesting it may be a matter of taste. No. When I say bad literature I mean literature whose author objectively and evidently  ignores the basic principles of story building, character development and narration. I mean literature whose author has said: 'Writing for children? That's easy. I can do that'. There is much, much, much more of this kind of literature than of the good stuff of course. But what I wanted to say today was that some of it might be beneficial (every now and then).

At home we are very lucky, because we read books that are very good, a lot of fun, very entertaining and well constructed. But recently we have another source of books apart from the family: the school library. I have to say it is a school library badly in need of new acquisitions, the last great purchase seemingly dating back to the late seventies or early eighties (fortunately, this was one of the golden ages of children's publishing in Spain, so we can't complain, I suppose).

This weekend we brought home the first school library book of this school year. I don't normally write negative reviews. Life's too short and I don't really believe in reviling other people's work. But I don't know if we can call this a negative review exactly, given the positive consequence of reading the book.

The book -I'll forget the title- is about a boy who'd rather be in the clouds than play with his friends. He closes his eyes and travels away to the clouds and has fun imagining, dreaming and building imaginary castles. One day another boy appears in the clouds and they become friends. But then the sun starts shining stronger and stronger and the clouds go gradually disappearing. The two children start fighting because there is not enough room for them both and the main character slips down to his room. Time goes by and the boy no longer wants to close his eyes and go up to the clouds. He prefers going to the beach and building sand castles. One day on the beach a boy goes up to him and asks him if he'd like to play. The main character turns and sees it is his friend from the clouds. From that day on they always play together on the beach and they prefer it to the clouds because there are also other children they can play with there.

My son is normally positively predisposed towards any book (unless something extraliterary on the front cover switches his interest off automatically). This case was no exception. 'Can you read it to me?' he asked. 'Of course', I said. We read it once. 'Do you like it?' I asked. 'Yes', he said. He told me he liked the illustrations (there were lots of animals in them, made out of clouds), and he thought it amusing that the boy closed his eyes and let his imagination soar.

This morning before going to school, he asked to read it one more time. But this time his reaction was very different. When we finished it, he said: "Mummy, this is a very strange book". I asked him why. "Because the boys don't say anything. They don't think anything either. I don't know what they are like". 'Do you mean their personality?' I asked. "Yes, he said, I don't know anything about their personality. The writer just tells us some things that happen."

He asked to read it once more. This time he asked why several times. "Why do the boys start fighting?". I tried to answer him, but the truth is his question was a very good one. I didn't understand why the boys started fighting either. Even so, I tried to answer him according to the logic of the book's author. "Well, the book says it is because they don't have as much room, because the clouds are disappearing". But my son looked at me and said: "that's not a very good reason. I don't know what they are thinking, so I don't understand why they fight".

And it was time to go to school, so we had to stop the conversation. But it struck me that a four-year old boy had just managed to point out very accurately what was wrong with the book: No real characters and false causality resorted to in order to advance a narration heading straight to a forced metaphor.

Of course he could not have detected it without the baggage of all those good books we read every day, but it suddenly struck me that it was important and interesting to read so-so things and bad things too. I thought it was important to expose children to varying quality precisely because it helps them tell one from the other.

The recipe seems easy then: read, read, read and then read a bit more. Read a lot of good stuff and some rubbish too. And think about it every now and then.

If it works for a four-year old, it should work for preschool and primary teachers, and people thinking of writing children's literature too.

We can't go around recommending children's literature without having read a lot of it. We can't begin to think of writing children's literature without having read a lot of it. A lot of the really good stuff, and bit of the bad stuff for good measure.

(c) of the text: Ellen Duthie. By all means copy it or reproduce it but please be kind and cite your source (author and blog).

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Amazing Bone: Scrabboonit!

The Amazing Bone
William Steig
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1976

The Amazing Bone, by William Steig by We read it like this
Click above to listen to the way we read The Amazing Bone

The text
A book that gets away with featuring a small bone (look inside the piggy's handbag on the cover) as not just a character but a hero deserves attention just for the gall of it. But then we are talking of the same author with a story where the main character turns into a rock (yes, a rock) and remains a rock for a large part of the story (Sylvester and the Magic Pebble), the same author who wrote a story about a rabbit who can turn into a rusty nail at will, and includes the angst-ridden question 'Do nails die?' (Solomon the Rusty Nail), the guy who wrote a story about a man becoming a dog and not being able to communicate to his wife who he really was (Caleb and Kate), the very same man who introduced young readers to the art of abbreviation well before mobile phone texting was invented (CDB!) and the same dude who manages to conjure up a nightmare scene in which the nightmarishness of it all is the sickly niceness of some disgustingly loving children (Shrek!).

So when dreamy Pearl, the charming little pink riding bonnet on the front cover above, decides to dawdle on the way home from school, stopping 'to watch the grownups in town at their grownup work, things she might someday be doing', and then sits on the ground in the forest half way home to take in the beautiful arrival of spring ('the warm air touched her so tenderly, she could almost feel herself changing into a flower') and hears herself say 'I love everything', we are hardly surprised that a bone lying nearby should reply 'So do I'. 'You talk?' asks Pearl. 'In any language' says the bone, 'and I can imitate any sound there is'. The bone and Pearl hit it off straight away and Pearl decides to take the bone home. But on the way, they first have to deal with three highway robbers with pistols and daggers and a fox who is set on Pearl becoming his dinner for the evening. Luckily, the bone has other powers, learnt passively and unknowingly from his previous owner -a witch. One is left wondering how on earth it is possible to combine humour, tenderness, loyalty and friendship with the absurd quite so incredibly naturally. This 1977 Caldecott Honor Book is a big favourite at the moment. In fact, most of William Steig's work is, really.

As always, Steig's language is gorgeously rich and entirely unafraid of 'big words' and poetic prose. On her way home from school, Pearl stops at a barn and stands "gawking as the old gaffers pitch their ringing horseshoes". After announcing that Pearl will be his main course at dinner that night, the fox didn't just grab her; "he seized Pearl in a tight embrace", to which the bone reacts by screaming "Unhand her, you villain", leaving its fiercest insult for a little later: "You worm, you odorifeous wretch!". I see lots of reviews of Steig's work saying readers sometimes feel the need to simplify the language when they read the stories out loud, 'especially for younger children'. Here's a little piece of advice: don't do it! don't do it! don't do it! Steig was not only unafraid of using language interestingly, he was extraordinarily good and using 'difficult' language in context in such a manner that even the youngest of children will understand perfectly well what most of it means. What's more, the 'big words' he often chooses are marvellously sonorous and children are immediately attracted to them - and love learning them. Ultimately, 'odoriferous wretch' sounds one hell of a lot more intriguing and funny as an insult than smelly old miserable fox, whatever your age.


The illustrations
In The Amazing Bone, William Steig's immediately recognisable pen, ink and watercolour illustrations bring us the arrival of spring in its full glory and optimistic abandon, complementing the textual descriptions. "Spring was so bright and beautiful... her light dress felt like petals." "The spring green sparkled in the spring light. Tree toads were trilling. It's the kind of wonderful day," said Pearl, "when wonderful things happen-like my finding you." "Like my finding you!" the bone answered. And it began to whistle a walking tune that made the going very pleasant".
'I love everything,' she heard herself say. 'So do I,' a voice answered.
Pearl straightened up and looked around. No one was there.
'Where are you?' she asked.
Steig is also wonderful at portraying and provoking emotions in his readers. Look below and feel Pearl's fear, pride and despair.
'You can't have my purse,' she said, surprised at her own boldness.

'He wore a spring of lilac in his lapel, he carried a cane and he
 was grinning so the whole world could see his sharp white teeth'. 

'Pushing Pearl along, the fox set out for his hideaway'. 

'I'm only just beginning to live', Pearl whispered [...]. 'I don't want it to end'.
'I know,' said the bone. 

'I regret having to do this to you', said the fox. 'It's nothing personal'. 
Frightening stuff, you'll agree! But then look below and feel the exhilarating joy of the reunion. "Where on earth have you been?", ask Pearl's parents. "We were frazzled with worry". And then the bliss of sleeping safely in the warmth of her own house with the lovely company of her friend the bone.
'The moment the door swung open, she was in her
mother's arms, and right after that in her father's.  
'Sometimes the bone put Pearl to sleep by singing,
or by imitating soft harp music'. 
Reading it out loud
All of Steig's books are a delight to read out loud. Most of his texts are quite a lot longer than today's picture-book standard, but not too long to read in one sitting from a young age.

In The Amazing Bone, the emotional rollercoaster we are taken through is guaranteed to keep ears pricked and eyes peeled for what's coming next. We feel the carefree joy of spring, then the amazement at the magic bone, the fear of being shot and the exhilaration of escaping death, the fear of being eaten, and the final relief of escaping death for the second time that day, followed by the comfort of arriving home to some very worried parents and snuggling down to sleep with the new friend the bone.

Besides the vocabulary, which we already talked about above, with interesting sounding words that serve to perk up little listeners and sometimes give them a giggle too, Steig also intersperses interesting questions and explicit comments which tend not to go unnoticed when reading his books aloud. He gives kids things to think about, all the time. They might think about them then and there or the questions might hang around ringing in their ears for later. A few examples of this in The Amazing Bone are:

"She watched the grownups in town at their grownup work, things she might someday be doing."

"How come you can sneeze?", asks Pearl. "I don't know", replies the bone. "I didn't make the world".

Later, the bone says to the fox: "You must let this beautiful young creature go on living. Have you no shame, sir!" The fox laughed. "Why should I be ashamed? I can't help being the way I am. I didn't make the world."

My son (aged 4.5) likes going back to these and pointing out that the fox says the same phrase as the bone before and wondering why.

At the fox's hideaway, the bone whispers to Pearl: "I know how you feel". "I'm only just beginning to live,", Pearl whispers back. "I don't want it to end". "I know", says the bone.

Another wonderful thing about reading The Amazing Bone out loud of course are the wonderful spell words the bone utters to get rid of the fox: Yibbam! Yibbam sibbible! Jibrakken sibbible digray! Alabam chinook beboppit gebozzle! And our favourite, Scrabboonit!

Reading Steig's books aloud guarantees laughter, concern, delight at magic or supernatural phenomena and children who are never ever talked down to. And boy, do they appreciate it.

Other things we like about The Amazing Bone and Steig in general
First off, we love the idea that a bone can have personality. A clearly defined, engaging personality too!

The first book of Steig's we got was Pete's a Pizza (a wonderful little story pizza boy and a pizza-maker father showing how play can be a very effective way of exiting a bad mood). My son would have been around two years old when we got Pete's a Pizza and he was captivated from the word go. Then we got Shrek! which he also loved, followed closely by Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, which was a very very very big hit with him and us alike. This story of a donkey who finds a magic pebble, by mistake wishes he was a rock and becomes one, was the beginning of our addiction to a number of Steig books about things turning into others and becoming trapped in a way that renders the original identity meaningless and the original identity-holder hopeless (check out Solomon and the Rusty NailCaleb and Katie). The Amazing Bone is also 'one of those', even though there is no transformation as such in the book. I like that my son is able to identify it as 'one of those', like Gorky Rises, the story about a frog who concocts a magic liquid that makes him fly and ends with a rock known as Elephant Rock turning into a real elephant. My son often asks, when we read The Amazing Bone, what we think the bone was before. I love that he recognises and has developed a Steig logic in his head.

Many of these books also have other things in common. William Steig makes his characters go through real horror, pain and anguish, but often compensates them with exhilaratingly happy reunion endings. Check out a few here: 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble 

Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, whole family
cuddling up on the sofa after a bit of a rough experience. .  

Solomon and the Rusty Nail

Brave Irene

Caleb and Kate. Rather nice to find out the dog you took in
around the time your husband went missing...
was in fact your husband all along!

Caleb and Kate

Spinky stops sulking, in Spinky Sulks
Spinky sits on his father's knee. Sometimes he might not be that bad after all.
From Spinky Sulks

A related recurring theme in many of Steig's books is separation (either due to physical impossibility -like Sylvester or Solomon in their rock and nail form- or in coming of age adventures of sorts -Zeke Pippin, Gorky Rises or The Amazing Bone itself-. I love the way that what in most authors would reduce to portraying the fear of not being with your parents, in Steig becomes something so much more layered, where the fear alternates with an almost exhilarating fantasy at the thought they are all out there looking for you. It's a bit like wishing to know how everyone would react if you died, and getting to see for yourself. Reaffirming your loved ones' love for you.

In Spinky Sulks, "Spinky's family was worried. They couldn't stand to see him feeling so wretched".

In Gorky Rises, we are told "Gorky's parents had been out all night searching for him. By now, they were so worried they were ready to kill themselves just to end their misery."

In Caleb and Kate, "Kate longed for her missing husband; she couldn't understand why he'd left her. And how Caleb wished he could speak and explain! He would sprawl by her feet, gnawing a bone, while she worked at her weaving. Often a tear would hang from her lashes, or she would stare through the window and sigh, and Caleb would put his paws in her lap and lick her sad face."

In Solomon the Rusty Nail, Solomon thinks "How his poor parents must be suffering, not knowing what had become of him. How miserable they must be without their child.  

In Zeke Pippin, the pig protagonist slides into dreamland. "There he found his poor mother and father, and his poor brother and sister, all crying their hearts out, showering their clothes and the carpet with hot tears, asking how they could possibly go on without their oh-so-beloved Ezequiel. "If I don't see my angel again soon", his mother wailed, "I'll shoot myself!".

In child readers, I think many of Steig's stories have an effect a bit like the equivalent of the adult fantasy of going to your own funeral and taking comfort in how much everyone misses you. Giving children an idea of how much they might be missed if they go missing is a comforting fantasy. "We were frazzled with worry", say Pearl's parents. "Really? You were?", we can almost hear Pearl thinking.

In two words: Read Steig! 

(c) of all the illustrations in this post, William Steig, 1976.
(c) of the text, Ellen Duthie. Copy it or reproduce it, but please be nice and cite your source (author and blog).