In a previous blog, we discussed how “older” children’s books we read as kids do not necessarily translate into “classics.” However, there are some children’s books that continue to make an impact in today’s literary world. Goggles! by Ezra Jack Keats is an exciting book in a series that explores and celebrates America’s urban culture.

This story presents us with two boys, Peter and Archie, and their dog, Willie, as they play in their hideout. Once they find some yellow motorcycle goggles, they quickly become the object of desire to everyone—including a gang of older boys. Peter, Archie, and Willie evade the bullies through a series of deceptions and celebrate their victory sitting on the front steps and wearing their goggles.

Creative Problem Solving & Dealing with Bullies

Goggles! is an especially popular book because of the clear cut conflict. While some children’s books choose to center on more internal conflicts, Goggles! makes it very clear that Peter and Archie are in physical danger. However, rather than solve their dilemma with violence, the boys use practical problem solving skills to get out of a bad situation. Children are constantly confronted with threats and learning how to deal with them safely and creatively is an important skill in their development.

In addition to inferring these skills from the text, you can do an activity with your child to make the reading experience more fun. The first time you read Goggles! with your child, ask them to make predictions at each turning point in the plot. Discuss the difference between your child’s predictions (or yours!) and the decisions characters make in the story. This activity will help children understand different points of view and the benefits of creative problem solving.

Cultural Lessons in Illustrations

Readers of Goggles! may recognize Willie and Peter from Ezra Jack Keats’s most popular children’s book The Snowy Day. Known as the “first major kids book to feature a black protagonist that wasn’t a caricature,” The Snowy Day spurred on a series of books that promoted universal childhood experiences through the eyes of urban, African-American children. To accomplish this, these stories rely on showing universal situations in the text and African American characters in urban environments in the illustrations.

In Goggles!, the majority of the story takes place in an abandoned lot. Much like If You’re Not From the Prairie demonstrated rural life in the 1990s, Goggles! and other Keats books illustrate urban life in the 1960s in a timeless and endearing way. This cultural exposure allows children to develop an appreciation for other ways of life.

Consider this activity if your child lives in the suburbs or a rural area: ask them to compare and contrast the hideout, abandoned lot, and city to their own environments. Next, ask them to compare and contrast the characters choices and games to their own experiences. These activities not only encourage positive cultural development, but they also support critical thinking while reading.

Recommended Audience

This very short read is perfect for pre-K and kindergarten students. For more books from this series, look for these titles:

  • A Letter to Amy
  • Whistle for Willie
  • Pet Show!
  • Hi, Cat!
  • Peter’s Chair
  • The Trip
  • Louie
  • Roberto Walks Home

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