As everyone knows, one of the modern classics of preschool literature is Maurice Sendak’s Where The Wild Things Are. Published in 1963, its wonderful illustrations are coupled with a story of only few hundred words. The plot is by no means original. In fact, it’s an ancient construct that can be traced back through Homer and beyond: the hero leaves home, has fantastic adventures, then returns home. Simple and universal.
But as simple as it is, it’s clearly an important story about fear, courage, power and familial love that continues to be told over and over again. A more recent retelling of this basic plot that I like to read in class is Paul Owen Lewis’ Storm Boy. This version casts a Native American boy as a hero who is washed into the sea where he has adventures among the strange giant “people” he meets there.
But it’s not only professional authors who tell this story. Our own children tell and retell it.
Here’s Katherine’s (3) version:
Once there was a ghost. And then it scared all of the people away. And then what happened, the ghost went home to sleep in his bed, but actually it was someone else’s bed! He poked his self in his tummy, but it was pretend. But actually he just poked his finger in his tummy. And then he just really goes silly all over the place and knocked down stuff. And then he really scared more people away. He goes home, where his mom and dad were, to sleep in his bed.
And Jane’s (4):
It’s about a Barbie princess fairy. And she danced the Nutcracker. And then she made a rainbow. And then she met her friend the unicorn. She has rainbow wings and a horn. And then the Pegasus flew up in the air and met her friends the fairies. And then she went back on the ground and went home. She was a baby Pegasus. She got lost. And then she saw something flying towards her. It was her mom and dad. And then they went home and ate marshmallows.
And Nia’s (5):
Once upon a time there was a little unicorn named Tinkerbell. And she was a flying pony. And she was lost in a dark and gloomy forest. And she found her mother and daddy. And then she wanted to go home. And they saw their way home.
It’s more than a fictional plot for our children. In many ways, it’s the story of their lives. They leave their homes and come to school. They have adventures among the people they find there. And then they return home to their hot supper. It’s a story that gets repeated throughout their lives.
It’s a story most of us will live today.