Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The ABC of It: Why Children's Books Matter

by Sarah Sullivan

Most of the time, I am more than content to live in my little northern town burrowed into the foothills of the Rocky Mountain Front. But every once in awhile I hear about something, a great restaurant, a hot new play or an amazing concert that makes me wonder if I’m missing just a little too much while holed up in my woodsy bunker. This year, for instance, the New York Public Library has an event that I might sell my dear dear mother to see (she would understand.) The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter is a curated exhibition that examines why children’s books are important and what they reveal about society across cultures and time. It got me thinking about my favorite children’s books. In general, I’m not a big re-reader. The one exception to that trend is children’s books. The most well worn books on my shelves are children’s books that I have collected since my childhood or that I bought the minute the rabbit died so that I could revel in the joy of my children’s first introduction to them. Sadly, my children and I do not always share the same taste in literature. Since my children don’t seem to care about my opinion, I decided to present my list to those who can truly understand. I tried to edit it down to ten, but I just couldn’t do it! So, here are my top fifteen children’s books in no particular order:

Charlotte’s web, E.B. White (I know! Boring, but true.) 

The Big Red Barn, Margaret Wise Brown (Love this more than Goodnight Moon)

Nancy Drew Mysteries Carolyn Keene (a.k.a. ghost writers galore) 

The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner (Who doesn’t want a boxcar to play house in!)

The Country Bunny and the Little Gold Shoes, Dubose Hayward and Marjorie Flack, illustrator (This book has the most glorious illustrations. It still makes my hair stand up on end.)

Madelaine, Ludwig Bemelmans (Love them all, but my favorite is The Rescue.)

The Crumb, Jean Slaughter Doty (Every equine loving girls’s favorite author.)

A Very Young Rider, Jill Krementz (Ms. Krementz has a series of “Very Young” books and the black and white photos are wonderful.) 

Sara Crewe, Frances Hodgson Burnett (What is it about orphans that make for great children’s books?) 

The Black Stallion, Walter Farley (O.K., I might have one too many horse books on this list) 

The Lion the Whitch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis (Somehow much less scary than Alice in Wonderland to me.)  

Where the Red Fern Grows, Wilson Rawls (A boy and his dogs. Classic!)

The Snowy Day, Ezra Jack Keats (Warm, mom, kindergarten, colorful, cityscape- words it brings to mind).

Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery (More orphans.) 

The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien (My mom read this to my brother and I when I was in the third grade. It was probably a little early but my brother was older and so she read it, and I have always been grateful.) 

What are some of your favorite titles from Childhood? 


RichardK said...

I've read plenty of books in my lifetime, but the only one from your list I read was 'The Black Stallion'. I tried the Hobbit a few times but kept falling asleep as my brain stopped gathering all the information.

Jenny said...

I agree about The Big Red Barn.

I don't know how I felt about Dr. Seuss as a kid, but his books were my very favorites to read to my boys.

I love E.B. White, too. Red Fern is so heartbreaking! Summer of the Monkeys much less so. I preferred that one by Wilson Rawls.

Thanks for the list and the trip down memory lane!

Jen Schafer said...

I think I checked The Boxcar Children out from my school library so often no one else had a chance. Same for James and the Giant Peach. Funny, I think my kids read all of the Roald Dahl books but that one and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

I didn't read The Hobbit or The Lord of the Rings until after the 2nd LOTR movie. That, and listening to the audio books, got me through the print version the first time.

I also love children's books and have at least two boxes from my kids' younger days that I may or may not part with when they have their own families.

I kind of miss reading out loud to them. The Berenstein Bear's B Book just isn't the same without someone small and giggly sitting in your lap.

Sarah Sullivan said...

Jen, I love reading to my kids out loud. It's one of my favorite parts of motherhood.

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