September 14, 2004

Childrn's Books

Several years ago, I think about Passover time, but it could have been Sukkot time as well, there was a show on PBS called WIT. It was the story of a professor of literature who finds out she is dying of cancer.

There is one scene in the book where her professor comes to visit her; she is in her last days, can barely move, looks awful. "Read to me" she begs her visitor. And this elderly woman, who looks as if she hasn't read anything execept for classics for years, searches about her and pulls out a slim book from a bag she is carrying on her arm, a gift for her grandchild; "The Runaway Bunny" and begins to read.

"Oh, how clever" she chirps after a few minutes. "An allegory of the soul!" and as she reads she deconstructs the book on that basis.

While I doubt that is what the author had in mind when she penned this beloved tale, I often find that well written children's books have in them something much deeper than they are given credit for. Forced to be brief, forced to be simple, each sentence must carry a wallop. They are like Japanese paintings; a simple line becoming a bird, a swirl becoming a bud on a branch.

Two of my favorite children's books are "Dogger" which is the story of sibling love, and self sacrifice, and "The Red Umbrella." which is about sharing and counting. Neither book lectures; both books allow the story to deliver the message. Sweet and cheerful without being sugary, emphasizing qualities that one would want ones children to emulate but not allowing the message to dominate the storyline, these books and similar have a place on the shelf of every child. I did not discover these books till the Artist came into our lives. I wish I had them earlier.

These are books I intended to purchase once I know a creepy-deep grandchild is on their way; I have a list of my favorites; Dogger and the Red Umbrella, as I mentioned before, The Little Engine that Could, What Do You Say are some of the ones I would choose.

What are some of your favorite children's books? What books would you purchase for your children/grandchildren in anticipation of their births?

Posted by Rachel Ann at September 14, 2004 07:28 AM

Thank you for reminding me! When I visited my sister (and my neice and nephew) a few weeks ago, I noticed that they didn't have any Harold and the Purple Crayon books (the original ones done in the 1950s by Crockett Johnson, not the more recent sequels), and I told myself I'd buy some for them as soon as I got home. Then, of course, I forgot about it. But now, thanks to your post and a few minutes on Ebay, they'll soon have these essential books. :-)

Posted by: Ampersand at September 14, 2004 11:36 AM

Well I am shocked Amp that they neglected such important books!;-) Lucky for your niece and nephew that their Uncle will come to the rescue!

They are very lovely books. Also the Carrot Seed, I beleive is by the same person, and this wonderful, sweet book on magnets.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at September 14, 2004 11:52 AM

I love The Runaway Bunny, (Lillianna thinks I sound just like the mom. Don't ALL moms sound like that?? The Carrot Seed is great for believing in yourself and in your ability.
Butterfly Kisses - I can't read it. I just cry!
My fave book that always makes me laugh is Is Your Mama a Llama?? That just kills me. I love that one!!
I am saving all these "baby" books for my sister in case she has a baby some day soon.

Posted by: Robin P at September 16, 2004 10:50 PM

"Guess How Much I Love You?" lead to a childhood ritual, with John and I trading back and forth how much we loved each other, required before bedtime. Currently, not only do we love each other to the moon and back, but also through each of the planets, Alpha Centauri and the Horsehead Nebula. And back . . .

He also adores "Ferdinand," the story of the bull who just liked to sit beneath his favorite cork tree and smell the flowers, and "Caps for Sale," featuring a man who sells caps from a stack on his head who has them stolen by monkeys.

The Complete Thomas the Tank Engine stories (UK editions only -- the US versions have been dumbed down); Seuss (any and all); PD Eastman ("Are You My Mother?"); multi-cultural fairy tales and creation myths; and the Harry Potter, Lad of Sunnybank, Black Stallion, James Herriott, Artemis Fowl, and Redwall series.

Posted by: Anne at September 17, 2004 01:42 AM

My all-time favourite is a little Torah story called "The Little Leaf". It is a story about a leaf on a tree and its stages of life. I can't read the darn thing without crying. You see, I'm the little leaf.


Posted by: Yoel Ben-Avraham at September 20, 2004 08:02 AM

For those who are interested in the book recommended by oel Ben-Avraham, it is available from Amazon.
The authors name is Chana Zuber-Sharfstein,

Here's a synopsis of the book by one of the rewiewers:

Book Description
This tender account of the life cycle of a leaf is an allegory for all ages. It demonstrates how Divine Providence guides us, and how every stage of life has a unique purpose. Accompanied by exquisite oil paintings, each page is a work of art in itself.

Anyone want to send me a copy? It sounds like a real keeper.

Posted by: Rachel Ann at September 20, 2004 09:48 AM
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