My Favorite Children’s Book About Neighborhoods

Every parent of young children who reads this blog should buy a copy of The Big Orange Splot, by children’s book author and NPR commentator Daniel Pinkwater. It’s a delightful story of independent thinking and creativity in a neighborhood. Ultimately, it’s also about finding happiness in life, too.Mr. Plumbean lives on a street where every house and front yard looks exactly the same, but one day, a bird flies over and drops a bucket of paint on his house, making a “big orange splot” on his roof.

His house looks different than his neighbors’ houses now, so they ask him to paint it to make it conform again. He does paint it, but he doesn’t do as they ask. He decides that his house should be an expression of who he is. He goes wild painting it. Then, he adds some fun & unusual features to his front yard like I’ve done to my front yard.

Our front yard mosaic has the following quote from The Big Orange Splot: 'Our Street is us and we are it. Our street is where we want to be and it looks like all our dreams.'

Neighbors vehemently protest. He replies, “My house is me and I am it. My house is where I like to be and it looks like all of my dreams.”

So, neighbors try to reason with him one-on-one. Each one visits Plumbean in his front yard to dissuade him of his folly, but Plumbean converts every one of them. Eventually, the whole neighborhood has colorful, fun houses, each one different to suit the individual tastes of each owner.

Independent thinking triumphs. Happiness does, too. The loser is order and conformity.

Look at your front yard. I’ll bet order and conformity are winning.

I hope The Big Orange Splot will inspire you to change that. You need to demonstrate to your kids that independent thinking and happiness are vastly more important than order and conformity. Besides, you can make your front yard a much more fun place for them, too…

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