There is a wonderful picture book called Alfred Digs by Lindsay Barrett George. Published in 2008, it stars a little aardvark named Alfred who must leave his cozy burrow and dig deep into a dictionary to rescue his runaway pet ant, Itty Bitty from a hungry woodpecker. When it gets a bit treacherous, Mama saves the day. After a trip to the zoo, Mama, Alfred and Itty Bitty all get home by hitching a ride with Mr. Zebra, back to the beginning of the alphabet, where they find their comfy beds. The last image is of Alfred and Mama, safe and sound asleep, while Itty Bitty stays up reading Voyage to Mars with a determined look on her face.
This story represents what I love about children’s literature- it is creative in an unexpected way. It introduces preschoolers to the alphabet while presenting colorful, unique illustrations and a compelling storyline with endearing characters. It imagines a world where a pet ant, instead of being the victim of an aardvark’s hungry stomach, is a treasured friend. This is one of those books I was just randomly drawn to; one that I purchased before I had children, one that I’ve shared in story times to a captive audience, one that I delight in over and over and just can’t stop smiling about.
I love the character “Itty Bitty” in this story (who wouldn’t love a tiny ant adventurer who wears bright polka-dot dresses and purple high-top sneakers?). I feel it somehow represents the young children I serve at the library. Though small, or itty bitty (“wee tots”), they are adventurous, brave little beings. Through much time, patience, energy and guidance from those they love, they hopefully become voracious readers and perhaps- if we do our jobs right- grow to enjoy a life-long love of reading and learning.