James Holzhauer recently took “Jeopardy” by storm, setting a single-game record of more than $131,000 won and taking home more than $2.4 million in total. Mr. Holzhauer shared his strategy to prep for the show: He read children’s books he got from the public library.
His 32-game winning streak ended June 3. Perhaps fittingly, he lost to librarian Emma Boettcher, of Chicago.
As a children’s book author and children’s literature professor, I know that kids’ books engagingly cover a variety of topics (though, perhaps not the former mayor’s “Healthy Holly” series), offering up history and statistics necessary to become a “Jeopardy” champion, but also lessons in life and leadership we can all use.
Here are 10 standout titles that come to mind:
In “The Little Engine that Could,” a train’s engine breaks down. After larger engines refuse, a little engine pulls the train over a mountain while repeating the mantra, “I think I can.” The lesson: You can overcome hurdles, if you believe in yourself, work hard and persevere.
In the European folktale “Stone Soup,” hungry strangers rally townspeople to chip in ingredients from their meager reserves for a communal meal. The takeaway for leaders is to build coalitions or teams to achieve buy-in, create synergy and produce results.
The lesson in Shel Silverstein’s fable “The Giving Tree” is inherent in the book’s title: Be generous.
“David Gets in Trouble” by David Shannon teaches that it’s better to admit mistakes than to make excuses.
“Frederick’s Journey” and “Martin’s Big Words,” both by Doreen Rapaport, profile two outstanding orators — abolitionist Frederick Douglass, who escaped slavery while working at Baltimore’s harbor, and civil rights icon Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Both biographies show the power of words to uplift, move the masses and effect change.
“The Lorax” by Dr. Seuss hints at the dangers of pollution and industrialization. The cautionary tale promotes environmental stewardship, a lesson that today’s leaders urgently need to heed.
“I’m the Biggest Thing in the Ocean” by Kevin Sherry is a reminder that regardless of your size or status, a bigger fish can eat you alive. So, don’t let power go to your head.
“The Emperor’s New Clothes” by Hans Christian Anderson, shows the folly of vanity. Two weavers execute a royal scam with an “invisible” garment that has the ruler parading naked before his subjects. A child ultimately exposes the scam. The lesson: leaders must trust their own eyes and instincts and greet sycophants with skepticism.
Finally, “The Pied Piper of Hamelin,” a German legend, shows the consequences when a town stiffs a rat-catcher and he returns to collect. The story gave us the saying, “pay the piper.”
Indeed, politicians who renege on promises risk losing the public trust.
I wonder if our current crop will make time for summer reading?