Saturday, February 23, 2013
Are toddlers lonely? -- Blue Chameleon
A chameleon is the protagonist of Emily Gravett's simple-plotted story with minimalist illustrations and text. He enters the story in a blue state and with the lament "I'm lonely," after which he proceeds to change his colors and even shape as he goes about trying to make friends with a banana, a boot, a spotted ball, a sock, a fish, etc. until he gives up and becomes white and nearly invisible.
A colorful fellow chameleon eventually comes along and is the first to answer the lonely guy's minimal queries such as "Hello" and "Can we hang out together?"
I wouldn't read Blue Chameleon to my children or grandchildren because the social dynamics of the story are so unrealistic and foreign to the world of this age child.
Why introduce someone so young as to not know his colors to the concept of loneliness? If there is a deeper message to the book, it might be that if you are a Colorful Character you might make friends more easily -- yes, why not get the kids started early on, stressing over their self-image. It could be seen as a cautionary tale as well, a heads-up that inanimate objects or fish won't be likely to answer your greetings.
These messages are beyond the concerns of children I have known in my own family and in my day-care business. I haven't seen a child who was worried about friends until at least Kindergarten, and at that time I would rather teach them how to be a friend rather than start them off with the example of discontent and self-focus.
If a child has someone there to read this book to him, he is not alone and already has at least one other human in his life. But if friendlessness is truly a problem for a very young child, I can't see that this story would do anything to help.
I'd prefer to teach colors with a book like The Color Kittens -- not that anyone is in dire need of a book to learn about this aspect of every single item in his environment.
The animal in this story is not a good representative of his species; real chameleons use their color-changing abilities in order to make themselves unseen, not the opposite. To hide from enemies, not to make friends. And I'm pretty sure they don't change their shape, or take on more than one color at a time, unlike these storybook creatures -- or the stuffed toy in my living room -- who go about with all their colors shining brilliantly at once.
I suppose the biggest problem with this book is that I find it boring, so I am annoyed with it and try to figure out what bothers me. Too many books for the very young aren't any fun for the adults and I suspect that that is one reason they don't read to the children as much as might be profitable. Next time I should write about a book I love to read to children. But you probably already know about all of those!