It’s difficult to leave a home after thirty-five years. It’s nearly as hard leaving things you’ve accumulated over that time, and things that were with you before. Heirlooms like Grandma’s butter churn and Grandpa’s rocking chair, family scrapbooks, photo albums, my children’s junior high awards. What to keep? What to leave behind? Decisions. Decision.
And then there are the books.Twelve six-foot long shelves of them. Which are the ones I can give up? Which are the ones I can’t let go?
The most precious are of two kinds. First are my forefather’s books. There’s a shelf filled with books my father cherished, that came to me after his death. They stand together – “let no man put asunder.” There’s a box of older tattered books from grandparents’ and great grandparents’ homes. My grandmother used one in elementary school to learn to read.
They are falling apart.
They are precious.
How can I let them go?
Second are my children’s books, the ones I read to them and the ones they read by themselves. Miss Rumphius, Calvin & Hobbes, The World of Pooh, Tolkien, Ender’s Game. As I look through these books I wonder. What made me choose this book above others for my children? What made them choose this one over that as their favorite?
For most of us, our favorite childhood stories stay with us through our lifetime. Sometimes I wonder what difference it makes on an impressionable mind and spirit if a child is given Walter the Farting Dog rather than If You Want To See A Whale. I speculate on what the consequences are if we decide to present a child a book about a misguided rabbit who's eventually murdered instead of a book about a sick zookeeper visited by animal friends. What ripple effect do these choices have for the child, for us all?
I’ve been lucky to see a bit of the ripple effect for some of my own books. There’s the ripple effect of a child whose Heart of a Tiger copy I signed when he was in second grade. That child wrote me ten years later, a senior in high school, to say how much the book had meant to him then and over the years. “It has always instilled in me a sense of honor, courage, and dedication...please keep writing wonderful stories, influencing and inspiring the kids of our future, just like you did for me.”
Isn't that our job, really - influencing and inspiring, not in a pedantic way, but in a caring way, giving our best stories to our children, sharing beneficial attributes? 'Instilling a sense of honor, courage, and dedication.'
We want our picture books to be the ones a teen keeps as she culls her shelf on her way to college. We want our books to have brought such great value, so high a worth, that the adult who was once the child reader wants to keep them near forever.
So dear readers, please share your thoughts on children’s books, particularly picture books, that have had the most value in your life or your child's. Let’s think about it together over the next month; I’ll revisit the topic in my August blog. I’d like my wise Cliffhangers writers' group to weigh in too. Cliffhanger Alisha is in Cambodia now with Room to Read (www.roomtoread.org), showing others how to share the important stories of their lives. She will certainly have thoughts on writing books with value.
And I’ll surely have more insights as I pack my own books away, as I choose the ones to put aside and the ones to hold close forever.
7/11/2014 02:20:52 pm
Marsha, I love this post. It's always a delight to consider the middle grade novels and picture books that have meant and will continue to mean so much to us. For me, your Heart of a Tiger is one of them. A truly lovely book! The Wind in the Willows is another that has my heart, especially the chapter Dulce Domum where Mole's old home calls to him across the winter fields.
7/11/2014 11:55:19 pm
Love your post, Marsha. I too have lots of cherished childhood books—Wanda Gag's Millions of Cats, Clare Turlay Newberry's Pandora, Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows. They are well-read and well-worn. Some of these old books reflect their changing ownership—first my sister carefully lettered Peggy in the front, then I crossed out Peggy and wrote Ellen. Not to be outdone, my sister crossed out Ellen and wrote Margot (by then she had chosen a more "grown up" nickname). I love these old books and hope they last for a few more generations in our family.
7/12/2014 08:40:16 am
This is a grand post! Some of my picture book favorites are, Make Way for Ducklings, Charlie Needs a New Cloak, Tuesday, Thundercake, A Sick Day for Amos McGee, Doctor DeSoto, Thank You Mr. Falkner, The Red Balloon, Christina Katerina & the Time She Quit the Family, Little Fox Goes to the End of the World, Chester's Way, Nana Upstairs & Nana Downstairs, Owl Moon, The Gardener, Erika's Story, Green Eggs and Ham, Fritz and the Mess Fairy, Nino Wrestles the World, Sophie's Squash, The Other Side, The Giving Tree, Polar Express, When We were Six, Heart of a Tiger, The Mixed Up Chameleon, Paddington, Henry's Freedom Box, The Pokey Little Puppy, Go Dog Go, Berenstain Bears, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Frog and Toad, The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Madeline Series, Curious George, Elmer, Alexander's horrible no good very bad day, and many more....
8/7/2014 02:36:52 am
Dear Pat, Ellen, and Virginia,
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