Arnold Lobel’s Picture Book, FABLES, Has Aged Well

Arnold Lobel’s illustrations have always been charming and the stories centered on anthropomorphic animal characters consistently possessed a quirky kind of wonderful. In 1980, his book FABLES, had won the Caldecott Medal as the best illustrated book. As a child, I was a voracious reader and a Master Bedtime Story Demander (thanks, Mom!) that I grew up to be a former elementary school teacher (2nd, 4th, and 5th grade)  and present-day middle school reading teacher. So, I guess it was inevitable that I’d be a big fan of Lobel’s award-winning work. FABLES is worthy of all the praise!

Here’s an old favorite that my mother and I loved reading and re-reading:

Owl at Home_Arnold Lobel

Owl was so innovative that he was sipping tears before it was a fashionable expression of throwing shade. He was so savage that he prepared and drank a proper cup of his own tears in the chapter called Tear-Water Tea!

Owl at Home_Tear-Water Tea
You can’t make this stuff up . . . no, wait . . . what am I saying? — nevermind.

I often read Fables to my own children, which contains twenty original fables with fresh and surprising morals. One of my favorites is “The Camel Dances”. The Camel, who has her heart set on becoming a ballet dancer practices her “pirouettes” and as she works for long months under the hot desert sun, she never gives up! Even when her feet are described as “blistered” and her body aches with fatigue, not once does she “think of stopping”.

The Camel Dances

Her dedication is inspiring and endearing.

Here’s an excerpt that induces laughter and empathetic tears from my middle son and I:

At last the Camel said, “Now I am a dancer.” She announced a recital and danced before an invited group of camel friends and critics. When her dance was over, she made a deep bow.

There was no applause.

“I must tell you frankly,” said a member of the audience, “as a critic and a spokesman for this group, that you are lumpy and humpy. You are baggy and bumpy. You are, like the rest of us, simply a camel. You are not and never will be a ballet dancer!”

Chuckling and laughing, the audience moved away across the sand.

“How very wrong they are!” said the camel. “I have worked hard. There can be no doubt that I am a splendid dancer. I will dance and dance just for myself.”

That is what she did. It gave her many years of pleasure.


Satisfaction will come to those who please themselves.

Even decades later I love reading Lobel’s books and I’m happy to share these moments with my sons and you, dear reader.

What are your favorite childhood books? What messages did you learn from them? Do they still have the same impact as when you first read them?

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