PHOEBE AND DIGGER received a Spring 2013 Parents’ Choice Award last week. This is nice in so many ways–who (beside Jonathon Franzen) doesn’t appreciate a sticker on their book cover?
But maybe the nicest thing is that word parents. I remember how picky I was about the books I gave my girls when they were small, both because I only wanted them to have what I deemed best, and because I knew I stood a good chance of having to read those books aloud over and over and over again. So having other Mamas and Papas decide PHOEBE fits the bill feels very good.
There’s more. In their description, Parents’ Choice talks about bullying. To be honest, I never thought I was writing a Bullying Book. The story sprang from something that happened to my oldest daughter one day in the sandbox at our favorite park, and I thought of it as just that: a slice of life in the day of a young child.
But once you write a book and send it out into the world, it’s no longer just your own. What I like to point out is that Phoebe, too, knows the pleasures of making mischief and feeling powerful, and can be a bit of a bully herself. When the big girl steals Digger, Phoebe gets a taste of her own medicine, one of the quickest and surest ways to learn a lesson, no matter what age you are. I have the feeling that, having felt scared and small herself, Phoebe’s going to be a nicer big sister (at least for a while!)
A few parents haven’t agreed. One blogging mother criticized how Phoebe tries to rescue Digger: knuckles (just a little), foot (not too hard). ‘But Phoebe tries her words first, and when those fail, she’s gonna use whatever she’s got to get her toy back. Her techniques probably aren’t in the How to Handle a Bully Manual, but I think they’re faithful to how a small child with limited options would behave. Likewise, at the end of the book the big girl hasn’t exactly reformed–that’s real life, too. What Phoebe’s discovered–that despite the new baby, Mama will love and protect her just as much as ever–is the real heart of the story.
Still, I hate to think about offending parents, whose job today is harder and more complicated than ever. So I’m grateful that a bunch them enjoyed the story enough to give it that seal of approval. Thanks, Moms and Dads.
(Braggart alert–the book is now in its third printing.)