Though it is absolutely intended to be a term of endearment, my husband and I often refer to our son as a little caveman. It could be partly due to the fact that he has very long, curly hair that is often in complete disarray. It may be because for the past year, he rarely wears a shirt at home. And it might be because since turning 8 years old, I seem to get more grunts than words in response to a request from him (a work in progress!). Therefore, it stands to reason that if a boy acts a bit like a caveboy, the odds are good that he will gravitate towards stories set in the Stone Age.
Today we’re going to explore three picture books that capture the imagination of the boy who wishes he could ride a saber-toothed tiger, rather than a bike. If you have a boy who believes the brush was devised to unleash torture and that shirts might as well be straitjackets, then these are the books you’re looking for.
Let’s kick things off with the coolest cat in children’s literature today, Pete the Cat. Pete has been a favorite of my son since he was 4 and though his days on our bookshelf may be waning, they’re not completely over yet. In Cavecat Pete by James Dean, the groovy blue cat lives in prehistoric times and no surprise, has tons of friends. These pals are primarily of the dinosaur variety.
When the gang decides to throw a potluck party, Pete navigates the feelings of each friend as they begin to feel uncertain about their role in the celebration. As ever, Pete is the cool guy who helps everyone to see what makes them special and how they fit in. This might be a great book for kids who are going through challenging times with friends.
In Tek: The Modern Cave Boy, by Patrick McDonnell, readers are introduced to a boy who is truly ahead of his time, for better or worse. Despite living squarely in the Stone Age, young Tek is somehow in possession of a smartphone, a tablet and a gaming console. He spends all of his time holed up in the family cave, glued to his screens while his friends try in vain to drag him out to play. What will it take to pry him away from his devices? An act of nature, or what?
This book has a fun design, with thick pages reminiscent of a toddler’s board book, however it is meant to evoke the design of a tablet. Though the intent of the book is clear, especially to parents, it doesn’t come off as a preachy diatribe against the evils of screen time. Rather, it is an easy way to start a discussion with your son about their own relationship with screens.
Lastly, we have a book that was recently added to our home library. The First Drawing by Mordicai Gerstein is centered around a young boy who lives with his extended family in a cave over 30,000 years ago. The boy sees things very differently from the rest of his family and he is often dismissed for thoughts and ideas.
It can be a bit tough to read the words that are spoken to him by others but I think that if we really think about it, we may be able to see our own sons in the story. I’ve observed that beginning around the age of 7 or 8, it seems that the world starts expecting our boys to start shedding their silliness in favor of growing up. I couldn’t disagree more, so The First Drawing was a good reminder for me to check myself in how I speak to my child.
The hero of our story continues to see Stone Age animals in the shapes of rocks, clouds, smoke and shadows. He tells shows his mom, dad, cousins, aunts and uncles but they just can’t see what he sees. Until one night, as the family sleeps, the boy cries out that he sees a wooly mammoth projected by the fire’s flames onto the walls of the cave. At first, no one else can see his vision. Frustrated, the boy takes a burnt stick from the fire and uses the soot to draw along with the projection. A tail, legs, a back, ears, eyes, a trunk, until… an image appears on the wall that is so lifelike that his father feels compelled to aim his spear at it. The boy has created the world’s first drawing without realizing what he was doing!
Though these books follow quite different paths and only share a Stone Age setting, I guarantee that at least one will resonate with the cave boy in your life. They’re an easy way to connect with your son during his prehistoric obsession.