Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock, by Carla Stevens (illustrations by Robert Kraus) is one of my fondest childhood reading memories. Of course, I had completely forgotten about this book until I spotted it at one of those church rummage sales where you pay $2 for whatever you can fit into a paper bag. But the instant I saw that cover, it all flooded back — and I neatly snatched it up and put it in my bag.
I was so excited by the find that I was shocked to discover that neither hubby nor the kids had ever heard of what I consider to be a childhood classic! Apparently it’s been out of print for a number of years now. *sigh* (But you can still find cheap copies at at eBay.)
Remembering reading about Rabbit and Skunk and their fright over the scary talking rock is far more delicious than reading it now; sometimes you really can’t go home again. *deep sigh*
But then collecting children’s books isn’t about reading and rereading them — at least not alone by yourself. No, collecting children’s books is about literally holding-on to those precious literary memories, about the tangible connection to those fragile and magical moments of those early joys of reading… We get to hold in our hands again those things we still hold dear in our hearts.
Rabbit and Skunk and the Scary Rock, for those unfamiliar, was published by Scholastic Book Services, so it was a very early reading experience for me. I remember reading and rereading it, the repetition more than that soothing familiarity children seek, but a mastery of the adventure — with each read I could take myself out there and bring myself back again. All by myself! No longer was I held hostage to the schedules and preferences of others; no longer was I stuck to the confines of my room, my house, my world — I could go anywhere, do anything!
And, just as Rabbit and Skunk discovered, big scary things aren’t always what they seem. You just have to muddle through to the end, that’s all.
Thinking of this reminded me of another childhood favorite: The Monster at the End of this Book.
By the time this book came out, I was way past both Sesame Street and Little Golden Books — but I had younger cousins, and they love-love–loved it when I read them the story of silly Grover’s fear of a monster. How could he be afraid of a monster at the end of the book when (spoiler alert!) he is, of course, a monster himself!
One of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book over and over to my younger cousins was because of its similarity to Rabbit and Skunk’s adventure. There’s the silliness, of course, but primarily the books address fear. My understanding of the concept of fear was, as a young reader, closely tied to the fear of reaching the end. The anxiety of “What would they find?!” was sort of a high… And the resolution rather a come-down. Not specifically because it wasn’t terrifying enough or was anti-climactic in anyway, but because all that good stuff was at an end. (In some ways, that hasn’t changed; I still loath for a good book to end.)
I was then left with a choice, do I read it again or select another adventure? (Never was the choice not to read.) What if the new adventure isn’t as good as the old one? …But, if I read the old one again, what might I be missing? Staying in the middle of a great read, looking forward to the miles to go, is always my favorite place to be.
This confusing pull surrounding endings — even those with new beginnings — is what I find myself struggling with each New Year’s Eve. If I might be allowed a cynical moment here, I suspect most of us feel that way and that’s why drinking alcohol and partying have become de rigueur; we just are too uncomfortable with “Goodbye.” And facing a “Hello,” even after a bad year, is to wonder if we wouldn’t really be better off sticking with the old one…
But, as this year is about to end, I must remind myself of Rabbit, Skunk, Grover, and reading books taught me. Be brave. Big scary things aren’t always what they seem. Whatever you’re going through, it’s better when you have a friend to share it with. You just have to muddle through to the end, that’s all. And then look forward to the next adventure.
After all, you can’t prevent this New Year from arriving anymore than Grover could prevent the end of the book. So you might as well embrace it. Happy New Year, one and all!