Picture Books–The Gateway to Creativity

Creative Spirit

Boring title, I know. I was going to be witty, funny and make a crass joke about the word, gateway. That would be creative, right? Not necessarily, I found.  Instead, everything I brainstormed became interpreted by me as simply rude. Boring might be the safer way to go, sometimes. Here are some creative words for you, though, “Steven Spielberg” “Jane Goodall”.

Steven Spielberg and Jane Goodall have two of my most favorite stories in nonfiction books for adults, stories that have greatly influenced how I interpret my daily 24 hours with my young daughter. These stormtroopers in how a movie is made or how animals are observed in the wild have given me a filter to re-interpret the messes that seem to follow my daughter and me, and allow me to see anew the curious ways of a young, uninhibited young mind.

The first story is from Reason for Hope, though Jane Goodall says that others have retold her story in other places, as well. When she was four years old, her job was to gather the eggs on her aunt’s farm. One day, she became fascinated by the question, “But how does a large egg come out of a chicken?” So she buried herself in the hay in the hen house and watched. The young Jane Goodall, however, didn’t tell her mother, who over three hours later had understandably assumed the worst and called the fire department to search for her “missing” daughter. Jane eventually came out of her hidden observation point and ran excitedly to her worried mother. Instead of a hysterical and harried scolding, her mother knelt down in the dirt and listened to the excited observations of this young child.

The second story comes from “The Creative Spirit” and I have alluded to it before…*spoiler alert coming*…(I can’t help it. I have to tell the story here today). A young boy wanted to earn his film badge for Cub Scouts. He got an old video camera, and told his mother what he envisioned. She helped set up the kitchen as a horror scene…pressure cooked cherries oozing from the cupboards. For weeks after the filming, even months, I’m sure, she cleaned sticky cherries from the seams of the kitchen–the floor boards, cupboards and probably even the refrigerator. Who knows? Steven Spielberg knows, because he was that little boy with the understanding parent.

These two stories of untraditional responses to the exuberance of children inspire me to capture that spirit in a story I’ve written or find it in any book I’ve read myself or to the children around me. The stories don’t have to “hit them over the head” with permissiveness. That’s not what I’m saying, at all. What I glean out of stories, no REPORTS, like these is the valuing of a child’s spirit, a child’s heart. That’s what I want to discern in any picture book I read, or book in general. Appropriate discipline is also important to me, but so are compassion and a listening ear.

I got to put these ideas to the test the other day when I found my daughter’s small bookcase empty of dozens of books, again. Where had the picture books gone this time and where was she anyway? Had she thrown the books in the garbage basket like the $17 dollars in cash (oh, that filty lucre! haha) I found there the other day? Instead of that scene, I found this:

M's Stash of Picture Books

M had taken all the books into her homemade teepee her Grandma M had made for her. Look at that excitement on her face. How could I be upset at the idea of reshelving those books yet one more time that day? (She helps me reshelve, kinda, bless her heart.) Words of reprimand did cross my mind, but my joy at her joy overcame. That time, at least. Isn’t that what creativity takes sometimes, That One Time? May That One Time I (perhaps) responded like the mother of Jane Goodall or Steven Spielberg lead to Other Times!

5 thoughts on “Picture Books–The Gateway to Creativity

  1. Thanks for this, Sarah. You’re doing the right thing! My two girls are now much older than your little one, but I still treasure the sweetest, most important reminder my husband said to me when they were very young and the house was yet again a wreck because of all the creative projects and serendipitous games we and they had going. I wondered aloud how I’d ever get the house in any sort of shape to match up to those other families in town. He said something like, “Plopping kids in front of a video is no way to raise kids, but it isn’t messy. Letting kids explore and make things is messy, but it’s what we’ve chosen to do here, and it’s right for us and them.”

    • Marianne, I absolutely love the way that you have said and shared this! Congrats on your girls and the treasured memories. Your affirmation is confirmation of some deep convictions for me. Always, always helpful. For the record, I was horrified when M’s father had her watching children’s videos at a young age. Now, I’m just glad that she enthusiastically requests the live-action ones (versus the cartoons), especially the baby sign language ones (by PBS, my heart goes all aflutter!!) At least he watched them with her. As you can tell, my passion is for books, particularly ones for children. It’s fun to share them with M, and fun to write about them here! Thanks again for the much-needed encouragement!

      • Oh, our kids watched their share of videos. A few won’t hurt! We have a fond memory of our oldest, at about the age of your M, popping her favorite Winnie the Pooh VHS into the player and pushing the right button to start it, when we were too busy to do it right away. That moment affirmed my husband’s decision not to protect the electronics with toddler gates, like many of our friends were doing. FYI, that little girl is now an engineering student in college. She has landed internships after sharing her genuine enthusiasm for the field, starting with the things she was encouraged to do as a little girl, during interviews.

        Have a wonderful, creative, messy weekend with your family!

      • Very Interesting! I am so not an engineer, but lately have been hearing much about female engineers! I am totally intrigued, and wondering if your daughter has any favorite picture books that also supported in her engineering interests. (Oh, and we did have a wonderful, creative and messy weekend with our family!! Thanks!)

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