I’ve just dropped off my five-year old and her friend at school, and have also just witnessed my two-year old experience her first taste of heartbreak. “Can I stay at school, Mom?” she asks with liquid eyes that rival Bambi’s. “You’re too little,” my older daughter asserts. “You have to stay at home.”
As my little one and I walk away from the classroom, I see that she is craning her head to get a last glimpse of the older kids scurrying around their classroom, setting out art supplies and obviously having a riotous good time. “But I am big,” she insists. “I’m very strong. I just need a backpack.”
I kneel down so we are eye to eye. “Oh, love, you are very strong,” I say, resisting the urge to pronounce ‘very’ as she does, like ‘berry,’ “but you have to be five years old to go to that school. But I promise, when you are five, you can go to school too.”
She seems mostly satisfied with this answer, and is doing her best to endure her disappointment and the long afternoon ahead with her mom as sole playmate. I know that feeling, and am surprised and a bit saddened that it comes at such a young age: that sudden revelation that the world is so much bigger than we are, and that we are being excluded by virtue of our size, or our age, or our abilities. That knowledge–and the heartbreak of exclusion–if left unchecked, can affect our perception about the world and our place in it.
So when I read Little Pig Joins the Band, by David Hyde Costello, I immediately knew it was the right choice for this month’s featured title (aside from the obvious pun in there about “bands” and the month of “March”). This reassuring coming-of-age story confidently (and with great humor) affirms that every child has a vital, necessary, and significant role to play–all couched in the clear, simple language of a children’s book. When Little Pig and his siblings (“My name is Jacob!” he reminds them) visit Grandpa one day, they excitedly pull out his old marching-band instruments. While every older brother or sister seems to find a complementary instrument, Little Pig finds, to his chagrin, that he is too little to play the drum or the trombone…and most especially the tuba. His every effort to participate is innocently thwarted by his distracted family, tromping about in charming, clean watercolors (“Do we have any piccolos?” “There’s a jar in the fridge, behind the olives,” his sister replies. “A kazoo?” “Gesundheit.”).
When his sisters’ and brothers’ aimless marching causes them to collapse in a heap, read how Little Pig uses his powers of observation and problem-solving skills to become a much-needed leader. A fabulous pick for a BookChat, this story can launch all kinds of important discussions: ask your young reader if she has ever felt passed over or left out. Has he wished for certain skills or talents, and why? Share a story about a personal triumph or a time you succeeded against all odds, and then discuss specific ways your reader can use their unique talents and abilities to make a real difference in their world.