Nov 30, 2010

Posted by in Articles, Books, Insights | 0 Comments

Books My Family Has Loved (and I Think Yours Will Too)

Books My Family Has Loved (and I Think Yours Will Too)

We’re all familiar with the story of the Velveteen Rabbit, who is loved until his fur and whiskers are worn away, and he seems doomed for the dustbin, until the magical day when he becomes real. My children have never caressed and coddled a stuffed animal to that state of being yet, but that is not to say that we don’t have well-worn beloved objects; it just happens that most of these objects are books. We have a collection of taped and stapled tales that I just can’t bring myself to throw away. The characters within the covers have become real to our family.

With Christmas right around the corner, maybe some of our favorite characters will become members of someone else’s family, too.

Some of our favorites are familiar to all: From the earliest ages, my babies have loved Eric Carle’s Very Hungry Caterpillar and Brown Bear, but we’ve also spent hours and hours rereading the seven words of his Will You Be My Friend? The little mouse who finally finds someone to share his hole with him has such an endearing face that we wonder why the horse and elephant don’t make friends with him.

Carl the Dog is another speechless animal book which has been lugged along on so many trips that the cover had to be patched together with packing tape. It lived by the car seat for a good long time. The expressiveness of both Carl and his baby absorbed the attention of my own kids as toddlers.

Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon has been memorized by most parents after repeated bedtime readings, but her little rabbit in The Runaway Bunny was better loved by my crowd. This little rabbit transforms into a variety of objects to avoid having to mind his mother, but her loving pursuit of him finally convinces him to stay home and be her very own little bunny. There have been many times my kids have invoked running away to join the circus or to sail away, but they have always come back to my lap.

Another master of children’s book illustration is Jan Brett. Our introduction to her art was through The Mitten, which has remained our favorite of her beautifully illustrated library. The use of foreshadowing in the sidebar illustrations builds delightful anticipation that doesn’t dissipate with repeated readings. Similarly, the art of Tasha Tudor has captivated my children just as it captivated me. Her Corgiville Fair was a favorite of mine, and now is loved by both my boys and my girls.

Also popular are the early books of Mercer Mayer, including his Little Critter books. But another favorite critter in our family has been Crinkleroot, the nature loving little man created by Jim Arnosky. Crinkleroot teaches about trees and birds and butterflies without children realizing they are learning something. And his friend the snake fascinates young readers.

As the kids have gotten older they’ve moved on to new friends: Ramona, Martin the Warrior, Calvin and Hobbes. But my older kids will still pause to listen if they overhear me reading one of their favorites: All the Places to Love by Patricia MacLachlin, (the story of a little brother looking forward to sharing his favorite places on his grandfather’s farm with his new baby sister), We Played Marbles by Tres Seymour, (in which two boys are taught by their grandfather to play marbles instead of war), or Tomie dePaola’s Strega Nona. They still laugh about the jokes in Star Spangled Banana. And they love to gather close to listen to our ragged copy of Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever, with its tales of Couscous the Algerian Detective and Pippip in London. And really it’s that gathering together, those moments of shared space and imagination, that I am trying to hold on to, when I rebind these books with the strongest tape I can find.

Leave a Reply