Books for pre-schoolers are not just the point-to-a-picture kind anymore. Today's literature also deals with real issues facing 3- to 5-year-olds. Concerns of contemporary youngsters include day care, entering school, new siblings and awareness of others' lifestyles. Following are seven books that address these concerns with a refreshing approach.
Many children today spend a portion of their time with caretakers. Two books tell about day care and are especially interesting for the younger audience. In JESSE'S DAYCARE (Amy Valens and illustrated by Richard Brown. Houghton Mifflin Co., 1990. $13.95) the young boy's mother goes to work and leaves Jesse at Sara's house. Neither the child or mother like the parting, but while the mood is frank and admittedly sad, the work and play of each of them help fill the day until mother arrives to take Jesse home again. I like the pictures of mother and child activities, letting each be a part of the daycare experience.In Michele Magorian's WHO'S GOING TO TAKE CARE OF ME? (Illustrations by James G. Hale. Harper and Row, 1990. $13.95) the setting is a licensed day-care center which Eric and Karin attend together. Karin takes care of her little brother showing him how to dig in the sand and teaching him songs.
When Karin enters school in the fall, Eric must be on his own and he feels very small until he sees a new child who looks lonely. Then, Eric teaches him the words of the songs he has learned.
Both books are terrific sources to elicit discussion, responding to mood and real-life situations. These would be particularly helpful for a child who will be needing care outside the home for the first time.
Two books that would prepare the child for kindergarten and first grade are STARTING SCHOOL by Janet and Allan Ahlberg (Viking Press, Puffin. $3.95) and Emily Arnold McCully's SCHOOL (Harper and Row, Trophy. $3.95) both of which are reprints in paperback format. The Ahlberg book shows a classroom from Fall through Christmas. In small thumb-sized pictures the events of the days are described in a matter-of-fact manner. This is a confidence builder for children who wonder what will happen in the classroom.
McCully's wordless book leaves much to the imagination of young readers who will make up their own sequence of events. They will probably find much humor since this school is for the recognizable mice characters for which the author/artist is so well-known.
GETTING READY FOR NEW BABY (Harriet Ziefert. Pictures by Laura Rader. Harper and Row, 1990. $13.95) is still another attempt at explaining the why, when and how of a new sibling in the family. There is a wide range of these books but in this one the characters are puppies. The information, if carefully handled, gives details enough to explain that babies come to all kinds of families. A favorite part is the emotional detail like "Why do they need one?" and the "Good Feelings, Not-So-Good Feelings" which are very realistic. The book concludes "With a new baby in the family, everyone's love grows," which is a bit sappy but one could leave off the last page and it would be a good source for discussing the appearance of a new baby.
"Everyone sleeps in their own bed . . . " is not a good enough reason for little Susan who has a hard time at bedtime in Harriet Ziefert's I WANT TO SLEEP IN YOUR BED! (Harper and Row, 1990. $13.95) When the dog is tucked in and the baby is asleep, Susan insists on sharing her parents' bed.
This is a book to cheer about, because the parents are kind but firm in returning Susan to her own room and reminding her that she must remain there. Susan's initiation of taking care of a doll who needs to stay in its own bed is the solution. This is a book for a crucial time when love and gentle direction mesh to make a happy family.
A similar statement of "Big beds are for big people. Little beds are for little people . . . " is found in STAYING AT SAM'S by Jenny Hessell and illustrated by Jenny Williams (Lippincott, 1990. $10.95). But Sam's parents obviously don't know this rule because they let anyone into their bed. " `The more the merrier,' /" says Sam's mom.
This is one of my favorite books of the year for young children who question the diversity of friend's homes, families and rituals. There are at least five full pages (35 pictures) of kissing. Fathers, mothers, children, pets and grandmothers all kiss, "a kiss a minute."
The frank and open approval of Sam's family sharing everything - even the space in the bathroom - is a refreshing one to a child who has known only his own house. "Staying at Sam's house is like visiting another planet . . ." and I hope all children can have this wonderful adventure.