A couple of weeks ago, my three-year-old daughter and I went for a walk at a nearby state park. While we walked and took note of sounds in the forest and collected handfuls of leaves to then turn around and toss into the air, we passed by a grandfather and grandson also out for a walk. The young boy, a little younger than my daughter perhaps, held a big stick in his hand. He scouted out every mole hill along the edge of the trail he could find, and proceeded to smack the stick down hard on the top of each hill, leveling the dirt down. His grandpa saw me watching him, and offered that his grandson was a warrior that saved the people from monsters that dug up from under the ground – smashing the hills closed their tunnels.
Sticks are amazing natural toys. Every one is different, they are accessible to all, and what they mean to each child varies unimaginably.
A new children’s book from silhouette artist Clay Rice explores the value of sticks. In the simply titled The Stick (Sanger, CA: Familius, 2014, 32 pp.), a young boy with no toys and no friends notices a stick under a tree at a park and picks it up. Immediately we are shown – by way of clever silhouettes – all the various things the boy becomes: a pirate, a baseball player, a knight, a fisherman, and more. He carries the stick everywhere he went, and as he grows older, lessons he learns lead him to be a generous person. He becomes wealthy and eventually has a house overlooking the park from his childhood. As an old man, he visits the park with his stick, and one day notices a girl siting alone under the same tree. He decides to give up his stick, and places it under the tree for the girl.
The Stick shows the importance of play with simple materials (Wired once included sticks on their list of top five toys of all time) and their power to excite imagination. Also, this book stresses a multi-generational connection for instilling a love for nature. Although this young girl never meets the old man, it it through his wisdom and experience that she is introduced to the power of a stick.
For my readers in Oregon, here’s a another book from the same publisher that mightbe of interest:
From the publisher: “From the Astoria Column and Crater Lake to Tillamook Cheese and Powell’s Books, these 10 Little Monsters discover some of the most unique and interesting things about Oregon and what it has to offer. Silly, over-the-top fun, and a bit macabre, 10 Little Monsters Visit Oregon is the perfect book for every little boy and ghoul!”