Toy Canon

by Robert Pondiscio
October 10th, 2012

Just days after Mark Bauerlein’s assertion that Common Core State Standards makes high school English class safe once more for Dead White Males, along comes living white male Mike Petrilli with a proposed “Kindergarten Canon” — a collection of 100 “must-read picture books for preschoolers.”

Mike’s list  draws substantially on Core Knowledge’s list of recommended books for preschool and kindergarten, so there will be few quibbles from this blog.   Its principal strength is that every time I find myself thinking, “I bet he overlooked (A Chair for My Mother, Ferdinand, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel)….”  I find, nope, it’s in there.

A few selections feel like filler. One Morning in Maine is one too many Robert McCloskey books, after Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal.  No room for Rumpelstiltzkin but George and Martha make the list?  The Tale of King Midas is out but Knuffle Bunny, is in?   Teachers will surely mourn the omission of Miss Nelson is Missing!   Everyone is sure to have absent favorites:  My canon would have to include  Tar Beach; Come Along, Daisy; Go Away, Big Green Monster!  Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse and How Do Dinosaurs Say Goodnightif only to get at least one book on the list with illustrations by Mark Teague, the best  children’s book illustrator currently drawing breath.

One big difference between a kindergarten canon and shelf of major works of literature to read in high school or college: there really IS time to read every single book on Mike’s Kindergarten Canon while a child is in preschool, and then some.  Repeatedly.  Lots of parents can still recite Goodnight Moon by heart, years after their kids are off to college.

That should keep the gnashing of teeth to a minimum.