My love of children’s books began, of course, in my own childhood. First came the picture books; my brother’s reading books, in which I followed along as he read aloud; and then my own reading books in school with titles like “Dick and Jane” and phrases like “See Spot run.”
The books improved, however, and by the time I was eight years old, I checked out my first library books. I can still remember the first one, and how I loved reading it, after which I acted out the various parts. That book was The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.
In between high school and college, I had a job in a library. There I discovered many books that I “befriended,” and also met an author who came to speak to us. His name was Leo Politi, and his book was The Butterflies Come. Beautifully illustrated, I was so impressed that he autographed the book, adding some colorful drawings next to his signature. This book is apparently no longer in print.
Song of the Swallows, one of his other books is still available, however, and is representational of his unique illustrations.
Alas, I do not know what became of my autographed book. I suspect that one or another of my younger siblings “befriended” it as their own!
My mother had two books (currently out of print!) that she received as gifts in 1921. Amazing! As a child, I read them over and over again…they were true treasures to me. While I was working in that library, I took them down and repaired the bindings. Sadly, they could use it again. A few years ago, my mother gave them to me. One was called Cornelli, by the author of Heidi (Johanna Spyri), and the other was Elsie Dinsmore, by Martha Finley.
In college, I took a course in Children’s Literature and first became acquainted with Caldecott and Newberry winners. During the semester’s course, the Caldecott winner was “Where the Wild Things Are,” which has recently won some attention as a feature film.
One of the legacies I gave to my children, I believe, was a love of books. My younger two enjoyed the books I read, but oddly enough, did not go on to become avid readers. My older two are more inclined to read for pleasure. During the time that my younger children were growing up, a barrage of other activities seemed to claim them, like TV, video games, etc. In my own childhood, books were my friends. We didn’t have a TV until I was ten or so, and by then, books had already won my heart and my attention.
Some of the books my own children and grandchildren have adored are the many Caldecott and Newberry winners, and a book by Judith Viorst, to which they could relate: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.
Oddly enough, as adults, some of us could relate to that one! I recall taking it to work one day and photocopying pages and posting them on the bulletin board. Coworkers enjoyed them too!
Nowadays, reading occupies a lot of my time, in addition to my own writing. And I blog about reading…another obsession of mine lately.
But all of this sums up the value that books have given to me. They are treasures that never leave us.