Recently, one of my five-year-old twins came home from the school library with Eric Carle’s Rooster’s Off to See the World (1972) and instructions from her teacher to make predictions about the story while reading it.
This beautifully illustrated story begins with a lonely rooster who decides to see the world. During his travels, he meets two cats.
Before I could even ask my daughters what they thought would happen next, one of them exclaimed, “Are those cats going to eat that rooster?”
“The rooster wouldn’t get to see much of the world then, would he?”
“But cats eat birds,” she insisted.
“That’s true, but I don’t think these cats are hungry.”
So, we continued with the story, practicing addition as groups of animals join the journey, including three frogs, four turtles, and five fish.
“Fish? Don’t cats eat fish, too?”
“I don’t think these cats are hungry,” I replied, only to find:
Aren’t they looking at their dinner?!
But there’s no massacre. Instead, these tired, hungry, cold, scared, and homesick animals disband, providing my daughters with an opportunity to practice their subtraction.
That the animals give up on their journey is a potentially problematic message for those parents who want to teach their children, as a three star review of this book from Amazon explains, “to be adventurous, take reasonable risks, never give up on their dreams,and explore the amazing world we’ve been given to enjoy.”
I happen to think it’s not so bad to teach kids to turn back in the face of hunger, fear, and the elements. If those animals had kept walking–without a plan and without provisions–those cats might have had no choice but to resort to their natural instincts. Finally.