If you have the attention span to read one book in this difficult time, “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” may be your best bet. It’s soothing and beautiful without being sappy; it’s prescriptive but never bossy. (“Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is brave and magnificent.”) And if you’re anything like me, you will relate to the mole, who is constantly on the prowl for a piece of cake. However, if you’re looking to read a story with your family over the long haul, you may want to explore other options; this one only takes about 10 minutes, start to finish. Also, if simple secular parables give you the willies, think again. (Some have compared “The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse” to “Winnie the Pooh.” To me, the first group of characters belong in a frame; the second, on a sippy cup.)
Mackesy has advice for readers who are feeling scared, uncertain or alone right now: “Never underestimate the love that is around you. You are never alone. And every storm has an end. In fact, that’s probably my next drawing. The boy asks the horse, ‘What do you know about storms?’ The horse says, ‘They end.’”
When the horse says, “The truth is, everyone is winging it,” what do you think he means?
The mole asks, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and the boy says, “Kind.” How would you answer this question? (It doesn’t matter if you’re already grown up.)
What was your favorite illustration? And which tiny messages did you notice hidden in the drawings?
“Griffin and Sabine,” by Nick Bantock. Who doesn’t love reading someone else’s mail? Welcome to a romantic correspondence — in actual handwriting with letters tucked into envelopes — between a London artist and a mysterious postage stamp illustrator in the South Pacific. The story is for adults, with all the color and whimsy of a book you’d find in a child’s picture book.
“My Favorite Things,” by Maira Kalman. Her most recent book — also gorgeous — is a colorful reissue of Gertrude Stein’s “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,” but Kalman’s older gem also works well for those feeling low. It’s a reminder of small, good things: Dancers and dogs. Pocket watches and buttons and naps. As she writes, “Everything is part of everything. We live, we blunder. Love unites us.”
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