Amy Krouse Rosenthal, prolific children’s author, memoirist, and filmmaker, died this week, ten days after the New York Times published her essay, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” She wrote this announcement of her cancer and impending death in the form of a dating profile for her soon-to-be widower. If you read this and don’t cry your eyes out, I have serious questions about the size of your heart.
Rosenthal’s literary career corresponded almost exactly with my teaching career; her first books were released during my first year in the classroom, and she quickly became a favorite of mine and of my students. It wasn’t long until my daughter found her too and would ask to bring her books home from my school library so we could enjoy them together. Her titles capture the intimacy and complexity of life and translate them into stories that bring kids into the conversation and perfectly elucidate the beauty of the sacred and the mundane.
Here are 11 wonderful children’s books by Amy Krouse Rosenthal:
- Little Pea, illustrated by Jen Corace, Chronicle Books, 2005.
- Little Hoot, illustrated by Jen Corace, Chronicle Books, 2007.
- Little Oink, illustrated by Jen Corace, Chronicle Books, 2009.
Kids find these tales of subverted expectation sidesplitting. Little Pea can’t have his vegetables for dessert until he eats all his sweets, Little Hoot wants to go to sleep but must stay up all night, and Little Oink can’t leave his room until it’s a mess. Be forewarned: more than a few savvy children have asked me if I chose these titles for “reverse psychology.”
- Spoon, illustrated by Scott Magoon, Hyperion Books For Children, 2009.
- Chopsticks, illustrated by Scott Magoon, Disney Hyperion, 2012.
Who knew anthropomorphized cutlery could dispense such important wisdom? Spoon suffers from ‘greener grass syndrome’ and doesn’t think he’s as cool as fork and knife. Naturally, he learns to love himself for the special and unique piece of silverware he is. And in Chopsticks, the eponymous characters are separated for the first time ever and must figure out how to survive on their own, eventually coming to understand that their time apart strengthened their bond.
- Cookies: Bite Size Life Lessons, illustrated by Jane Dyer, HarperCollins, 2005.
- Sugar Cookies: Sweet Little Lessons on Love, illustrated by Jane & Brooke Dyer, HarperCollins, 2009.
These books will always have a special place in my heart. I used them with a group of first grade girls who some social challenges. We spent lunches together reading a page at a time, unpacking the terms Rosenthal presented and coming up with examples from our own lives (self-to-text connections, we call them). Our ‘lunch bunch’ meetings helped these girls develop heathy, functional relationships with one another and more loving relationships with themselves. And they learned what a metaphor was at age six…not bad!
- The OK Book, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, HarperCollins, 2007.
A celebration of not being great at everything! A call to do things because you enjoy them! A vindication for dabblers and dilettantes! A book I wished I’d had as a kid…
- I Wish You More, illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle, 2015.
- That’s Me Loving You, illustrated by Teagan White, 2016.
The former is a collection of wishes from a parent to a child, with messages of generosity, appreciation, and determination. And, of course, pictures of stars. And with a last page like this – “I wish all this for you, because you are everything I could wish for…and more” – it’s okay if you need to take a minute to compose yourself. You’ll need all your powers of stoicism for That’s Me Loving You, which very well could have been a mother’s goodbye. A poem of omnipresence and comfort, this book highlights the parent-child bond and the wonder of such a deep and abiding love.
The Comic Relief
- Duck! Rabbit!, with Tom Lichtenheld, Chronicle Books, 2009
So simple it’s a classic, so ridiculous it’s hilarious. The first time I heard this story read aloud was by Twig George, a former colleague who’s also a children’s author. The kids were doubled over laughing, and she and I kept looking at each other, eyes asking, “Is this funny? Or is it just dumb?” Verdict after many additional readings: decidedly funny.