Reconnecting with Storybooks
Somewhere in the heart of Richmond, Virginia, there is a little land of puzzles, plush animals, and pop-up books. After a day full of deadlines, homework, and banking woes, I retreated there.
I was the oldest person in the room who is either not a librarian or accompanying a child. I surpassed the book collection's median reading level more than half a lifetime ago. Though I am a college student, I stood—grinning, sans baby food on my sweater—in the Children's Reading Room at Richmond Main Library. Nothing entrances me the way a storybook does. The simple but precises words, the neat narratives, and the thoughtful pictures put me at ease.
I strolled down the reading room's aisles, chose about fifteen books, and sat reading for a little bit more than an hour. I plopped down in the grand rocking chair by the massive cardboard shoe sculpture (even the laces were made from cardboard). The rocking chair was the only chair in the room nearly tall enough to offer me real back support. I threw my coat over the back of it and placed my purse by my feet.
Upon opening the first storybook, Jackie French's Diary of a Wombat, I shivered—not because I was cold, but because I was excited. I flashed back to story time in elementary school. Mrs. Pike, a sweet-smiling gnome of a lady, used to pull out puppets and give all the characters funny voices. As I scanned Bruce Whatley's acrylic illustrations of a sluggish wombat, Mrs. Pike's voice echoed in my head.
After I closed Diary of a Wombat, I picked up a book that particularly made me laugh was The Wolf Who Cried Boy. It was full of clever puns, and the story itself was charmingly absurd. The pen and ink illustrations kept my attention, too.
A couple of the books snagged my heart. The most poignant read of the evening was How to Catch a Star by Oliver Jeffers. It's about a boy with what seems like an impossible dream. Meanwhile, I Love My Little Storybook by Anita Jeram, made me nostalgic for the days when I enjoyed storybooks everyday, perched on my mother's lap with a teddy bear in one hand and a snack in the other. The book even had fairy bunnies and mice.
The next couple of hours ebbed away as I pored over book after book. Not once did I fidget, as tempting as the idea is when sitting in a rocking chair. Not once did I think about office work or chores. I was a little girl surrounded by books.