by Arnold Lobel
New York: Harper & Row, 1978
57 pp. – 6 stories
Interests: insects, differing viewpoints, philosophy
Also by this author: Frog and Toad books, Fables
An “I Can Read” book, so suitable for beginning readers. Aimed a little older than the Frog and Toad books, also by this author, this book is just as laid back, but more complex. A thoughtful and useful work about living your life in the manner that’s best for you, and not worrying what others may think about it.
Grasshopper is a sweet main character, and sets off one day on the road. There are six stories in this collection, in which he meets other insects, each with their own prejudices and ways of looking at the world:
– beetles in the ‘We Love Morning Club’, who prove to be narrow-minded zealots in the name of their ‘cause’
– a worm in need of a new apple-home
– an obsessive house-cleaning housefly
– a mosquito who insists that rules must be followed, even if they don’t make any sense
– three butterflies who are happiest doing the exact same things every day
– two dragonflies who zip along so fast they don’t notice anything around them
These tales are full of life lessons, presented in the most gentle, unjudgemental way. It is left up to the reader to determine whether each creature is foolish or wise – or simply doing what is best for them. Throughout we travel with Grasshopper, who thoughtfully listens to everyone’s stories, deals with them all as courteously as he can, but follows his own way, contentedly travelling on down the road.
I say “gentle”, however the first story ‘The Club” caused my 4-year-old daughter no small amount of distress. The beetles – after welcoming Grasshopper into their club – later turn on him, calling him “stupid” and “dummy”, shunning him simply because he likes the afternoon and night as well as the morning. Grasshopper doesn’t seem to care, he simply carries on his way, but the conflict and rejection may disturb younger listeners, especially since insults of this kind are almost never found in books for preschoolers anymore. (Were we so much tougher in 1978?) Naturally there are many other four-year-olds who wouldn’t bat an eye at this, but I think 5 or 6 is probably a better age for this book. Children navigating school and peer groups will find very useful lessons in Grasshopper on the Road: everyone has their own point of view and sometimes you just have to live and let live.