In the classic children’s book A Fly Went By, Mike McClintock harnesses the The Great War’s lesson and with perfect eloquence tells a story that frees children from fear. With Fritz Siebel’s poignant illustrations as the glue holding a child’s gaze, McClintock’s repetitious prose etches its way into a young listener’s mind. The story is simple: a boy sees a fly go by, and asks him, “Why?” We soon find out that the fly ran from the frog. But the frog isn’t chasing the fly; he “ran from the cat, who ran from the dog.” The boy continues his search for the thing behind all the running, and in perfect metaphor to life, it turns out that a man was the first to run, and he ran from sounds of unknown origin. The chain reaction resulting in all the characters running in fear thus began. We soon discover, though, that these sounds were caused by “a sheep with an old tin can.”
Like any toddler whose parents read this book to them, apparently I had the big finale memorized before I knew how to read. It wasn’t until after college, though, that in reading the book to a nephew I realized the lesson that stamped itself on my person. Have no fear. “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Be brave. These sentiments and more are captured within McClintock’s fun little book. It is a sure winner for parents who are looking for ways to teach their children a timeless truth–without the children knowing class is in session. A life without fear is a life worth living and a gift worth giving. Give children freedom from fear. Share with them the story of a boy who “sat by the lake, and looked at the sky.”
McClintock, Marshall, and Fritz Siebel. A Fly Went by. [New York]: Beginner, 1958. Print.
“Merry Christmas,” he said, walking into her room.
“Daddy,” she began, “you know what? I heard Santa last night.”
“I did, too,” he confirmed. “Let’s go see if he brought any presents.”
She led the way to the tree and let out a giggle before she reported her findings.
“I wanna open this one,” she said, pointing to the biggest present.
“Actually, it’s better if we start with the gifts from relatives. Then you can open the gifts from Santa. Is that a deal?” he offered.
“Deal,” she agreed.
“Okay then. Let’s start with Uncle Sam’s gift. What do you think he gave you?” he asked.
She struggled with the bow until, at last, it relented, at which point she lifted the heavier than expected box. She sensed a liquid inside, and like any American child, guessed with more excitement than adults have the capacity to fake, “Is it…wah-der?!”
“Yes child, it’s water. The one thing in life you’ll never be without due to your ‘kul-cherr and hair-i-tij’. Sam waited all year to surprise you with this once in a lifetime gift,” he laughed to himself, head shaking.
“I don’t know,” he answered, “why don’t you open it and find out?”