I Am Lilly and Penelope's Pearls are a new dynamic duo of children's books, written by Annie Reiner. Annie Reiner comes from a gold medal show biz family. Her father, Carl Reiner, is a comedy legend.
She has the chops of a writer and artist, one who has chosen to devote her career to the care of her patients as a psychoanalyst in private practice. A psychoanalyst whose focus is on early childhood.
Who better to write books for children?
Early childhood is a particularly vulnerable time, a time when each child's view of her or himself is a tender seed, with the roots of a lifetime at stake. What a wonderful advantage when a beautiful children's book appears to help the young child at these tender growing moments!
Both books, I Am Lilly and Penelope's Pearls, are lean in length, yet deep and resonant in their ability to communicate the often nonverbal longings of children.
What fun they are and how artfully presented.
Here we have an infusion of art and words woven with exquisite tenderness. The voice of each book is the voice of an angel beckoning the child to come close enough to enter this most intimate conversation about having a true self.
Annie Reiner's visual art is as vivid and alive as her writing. Shall I talk about the illustrations in her two new books for children? She could have an entire career as an illustrator. No, I won't spoil that for you, the introduction to the twinkle dance of Annie's art.
But I will tell you about her stories.
I Am Lilly is the story of a child's seeking a beginning, primitive answer to the question, "Who Am I?" Lilly, our heroine, perfectly expresses a child's longing to have adult abilities beyond the strict limitations of being a child. This fundamental theme of every small child's life, as we see in Lilly's quest, s written with heart-melting patience and jolly humor.
One can imagine a mother or father reading these pages in seriousness to a giggling, delighted child.
"Of course I'm not Grandpa!"
"Or you, Dad!"
If only Lilly's quandary and resolution could be every child's free, undisturbed central focus.
Penelope's Pearls is a lyrical verse about feeling afraid and "cold," which all children at times are likely to feel. The book articulates a child's pain and fear of being unloved, alone, forgotten, abandoned.
Penelope, our heroine, is the smallest penguin in the South Pole. Because Penelope is a penguin, she is supposed to be like all the other penguins who are used to the freezing cold.
Aren't we all supposed to be copies of one another as children?
Don't we all grow up wanting to belong?
Penelope is different from the others. She is constantly freezing, seeking warmth and dreaming of being in Hawaii. Reiner has created many a perfect metaphor in Penelope's Pearl's.
It is a classic.
These books are so charming that it is a safe bet that parents will find themselves inhaling Reiner's message. After all, there are patches of unfinished psychological business in all of us.
These are stories about not just finding and loving the self, but delighting in being alive. Delight in the adult experience can be seen as a highly suspicious position, a lack of control.
Here are stories for the parent as well as the child.
The world is hungry for love.
Hurray for these books that provide children a road home.