Emma’s Cold Day – Margriet Ruurs

Emma, the hen, finds she is cold in the hen house and ventures out into the farm yard to see if there is a better way to get warm.  She encounters the other farm animals and eventually rouses the family in the house.  The farmer comes to the rescue.  This story has an appealing main character and predictable difficulties and challenges. It is a good story for young readers and writers. It could be fun to extend this story with other farm creatures or wild animal encounters.  The illustrations by Barbara Spurll are charming and enjoyable.  Thematically the book would link to winter, farm animals, survival, facing challenges, comedy or humour, story writing.

Emma’s Cold Day fits our expectations of good story for children – happy ending, industrious main characters earn their reward, things will work out for the best, the world is a cheerful place, troubles are temporary.  I can’t decide if these assumptions on texts for children are good or bad.  I certainly prefer to read happy endings myself.  When I see movies or read books with unhappy endings, I tend to spend time re-writing them to suit myself.  I wonder what could be done differently so that things would work out more unsatisfactorily.  Yet clearly life doesn’t always work out for the best.  One of my pet peeves in the face of tragedy is the old stand-by, “It was for the best”.  Maybe is wasn’t for the best.  Maybe life doesn’t always get to have happy endings.  Maybe we don’t all get to be Cinderella, or maybe Cinderella doesn’t always get the Prince, maybe sometimes it is better that she doesn’t get the Prince.  Maybe the Prince is a jerk and she’d be better off without him.  But do I want to explore that in a children’s book?  Some children’s books need to but you won’t find that in “Emma’s Cold Day”.  The chicken saves the day and they live warmly ever after.

 Margriet Ruurs

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2 Comments

Filed under children's lit, curriculum, education, library, literacy

2 responses to “Emma’s Cold Day – Margriet Ruurs

  1. Debbie Pushor

    Wow, you’re asking such good questions as a result of this reading, Susan. I wonder if what is important isn’t whether the book has a happy ending or an unhappy one but exactly what you raised – the importance of examining the assumptions that underlie it or on which it is based – both for ourselves as teachers and for children as facililtators of important thinking and conversations.

    If children have worked through difficult issues through literature (for example, as big as the death of a child in Bridge to Terabithia or as small as having a bad day as in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day), are they then better able and in possession of better strategies to deal with the real life challenges they may have to face? I guess I feel that literature is a safe place, with the distance it provides, to try out some of these emotions, to figure out how to deal with them, to begin to develop a sense of how to respond, so I want them to be a part of what we read and talk about in my classrooms.

  2. I think Paper bag Princess opens a door to discussing these kinds of issues with kids. Books such as Zel which tells the story of Rapunzel from multiple points of view, give another opportunity to look at how we assume life will go and where we expect stories to take us.

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