Imagination and reality to a 3-year-old

There's a discussion right now on the fantastic email list child-lit about "creepy" children's books.  I shared the following anecdote about Ivy and her experience of a creepy book.   

My daughter Ivy's creepy book was Mo Willems' "I Will Surprise My Friend," one of his Elephant and Piggie books.  At age 2, she was enamored of E&P and had us read them aloud to her often.  When this one was released, we immediately bought it for her and she was scared witless by the part where Gerald imagines Piggie being eaten by a scary scary monster "right now."  But she wanted it read again.  And again.  Every time she'd cry and cover her eyes, then ask for it again.  We read it to her, I kid you not, fifty or sixty times over the next few days -- clearly she was working it out.  We'd patiently explain about the thought bubbles and how Gerald was imagining, and she'd nod understanding, and then freak out again when we got to the scary scary monster part.

One week later, she brought the book to our neighbor Chet and proceeded to read it aloud to him.  When she got to the part with the thought bubbles, she pointed solemnly and reassured him, "Those are just imagination.  It's not a real monster." Success!

The final part of the story came four months later, when drawing a picture with her grandmother.  Ivy drew a picture with thought bubbles, and told grandmother (who is a noted child development expert), "This part is real life, but this part is just imagining.

Now she's four and reads the books aloud to her little brother, who is totally oblivious to scary scary monsters.

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