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Back in the Day with Books
By Ian Winship
We all have favorite books from our childhood. The 'we' I am referring to here is you, our esteemed readers, us, the happy folks at Quail Bell, and anyone else that had stacks of books with their names scribbled in them with Crayola markers when they were young. Childhood books make us who are today. Before we were being raised by MTV and "The Simpsons," we had books. I want to talk about some of my favorite ones, what I remember about them, the lessons I learned, and why you should get them for your kids (one day). I know I will.
Everybody knows about Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown. That is one of the first books I recall my mother reading to me. Those thick cardboard pages. Saying goodnight to literally everything in the room and even some stuff out of it. Classic.
Another instant classic is the ever popular Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Who didn't love terrible Max and his ferocious monster friends? I know I did. I revisited this book in a college course called “Child Literature, Myth, and Folklore.” We completely over-analyzed it and I may know more about the story than Mr. Sendak himself. It was cool to take a second look at this staple from my childhood as an “adult.” There is a lot more to it than meets the eye.
Little Golden Books could be found littered around my childhood home. I am the second oldest out of four. We kept those books around for a while. One of my personal favorites is the story of The Tawny Scrawny Lion. The story followed a very hungry lion on his quest for food. In the end the lion finds new friends instead. To be honest with you, I think I've always liked this book because I was always tawny and scrawny. Like all Little Golden Books, this one came with a message. Treat others nicely and they will treat you nicely. It is as simple as that. Sometimes people forget this in the “real world.” I think more people need to read The Tawny Scrawny Lion.
I nap. I love napping. I re-discovered napping during my first year in college. I blame my napping ways entirely on the book The Napping House by Audrey Wood. It tells the story of this house's inhabitants, all of whom nap on each other. It isn't as strange as it sounds. I promise. I learned that it is okay to rest sometimes as long as you actually get up and do something after. I remember this being one of the first books I read aloud by myself.
Sometimes we all have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. A book about a boy named Alexander taught me that these days weren't really a big deal and ways I could make them better. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst pops into my mind now and again. Years later. When I am having a bad day I think of Alexander. That is how I know it is a good book. It is still with me.
A Porcupine Named Fluffy by Helen Lester is a quirky little book about a porcupine with an unfortunate name. It follows a quest for approval that leads to an unlikely friend. Another animal with a mismatched name. A Rhinoceros named Hippo. Friends come in all shape and sized and weird doesn't always mean bad.
Hand me any Frog and Toad book and I will still be pumped. This series by Arnold Lobel really struck a chord with me as a kid. I think everybody should have Frog and Toad in their lives. The lessons that I learned from those two are endless.
I think kids need physical books. E-books are great and all but, I think I will raise my kids on paper. Children’s books are some of the first things that they feel they really own. They write their names in them and they hold them dear. Depending on the child they might rip and tear them or cover them in Kool-Aid stains and sand but, no matter what that book is still theirs and the more wear and tear the more they love it. The words aren’t the only thing that help teach the kids. Though sometimes, they certainly help.