Reading is a solitary pursuit. Sure, we try lots of ways to make it more social. We form book clubs & follow each other on Goodreads & ogle all the beautiful pics on Bookstagram. Yet no matter what we do, that solo nature still remains: when we read, we are absorbed into our book & into ourselves. But it wasn’t always this way. There was a time for each of us, back before we could read, when opening up a book was a group activity.
Every year, the first week in February is celebrated as Children’s Authors and Illustrators Week. So to mark the occasion, I wanted to talk about my favorite books when I was growing up. I don’t mean chapter books. No, much earlier than that. I’m going back to the picture books of my youngest years.
Of course, I love these books primarily for the memories they hold of time spent with loved ones. If these books had never been written, I’d be a different person now. I’m confident of that. Yes, I’d have filled that time with my family members doing other things, but there’s something special about those moments shared over a story that is unlike anything else.
So I want to give a big THANK YOU to the authors & illustrators of kids’ books everywhere. And another big THANK YOU to all the moms & dads & grandparents & neighbors & teachers & everyone else who ever took the time to read with a kid.
Thanks for starting us on our path to being bookworms!
The Little Bee That Couldn’t Buzz
This book was given to me by my grandparents, & I have especially vivid memories of sitting on my grandma’s lap while she read it to me. It tells the story of Billy, a young bee who works hard to learn to fly, but as he’s showing off his new skills, he crashes into a window.
It knocked the buzz right out of Billy Bee.
My grandma would start cackling at this line. Every time. She thought it was the funniest thing ever.
To Billy’s mortification, he no longer buzzes. Instead he hums. His friends make fun of him at first, but eventually they decide they like the humming. They try to hum also, but of course are unable (I guess Billy was nice enough at least not to advise them to go head first into a window). And so Billy is accepted back by his friends, each one content just the way they are.
Katy and the Big Snow
This one was a gift from my dad, & for many months in a row, it was my favorite bedtime story.
This book tells the story of Katy, a “beautiful red crawler tractor,” who loved to work & had attachments for any job the city of Geoppolis might need her to do. But one day, there is a Big Snow–so big, in fact, that the snow plows all break down, leaving the city stranded.
Everyone and everything was stopped…
That part, my dad & I cheered loudly in unison.
Katy puts on her snow plow attachment & clears the roads of Geoppolis so the doctor can get to his patient, the fire department can put out a fire, and the mail can be delivered. Afterwards, she settles down for a well earned nap.
One day, I fully intend to get Katy tattooed on my forearm.
The Monster at the End of This Book
By the time we had this book, I was old enough that I didn’t need to be read to. But I had little sisters, & my dad would put on such a great show when he read this one that of course I had to sit in.
In this 4th-wall-breaking masterpiece of a storybook, Grover sees the title & assumes some kind of horrible beast is waiting at the end. He asks the reader to not turn any pages so we’ll never reach the end of the book. Of course, we do turn the pages (sorry, Grover), & the Muppet gets frantic.
He begs & pleads. We turn more pages.
In desperation, he tries everything he can think of to prevent us from turning any more pages (nailing the them together, tying them together with ropes, building a brick wall, etc.). And each time his plan is foiled, the reaction is priceless.
My dad really deserves an Academy Award for the way he channeled Grover’s terror & exasperation.
Eventually we get to the end of the book, & the only one there is Grover, leading him to realize that HE was the monster at the end of the book all along. The last page shows him with a thought bubble, “Oh, I am so embarrassed…”
I just have to say, Sesame Street was BOMB back in the day.
I could probably take this list into infinity if I listed every kids’ book I ever fell in love with, but those are my top 3, so it’s a good place to wrap things up.
Happy Children’s Authors & Illustrators Week! Go read a book with a kid!
(And if you have a minute to spare, I’d love to hear about the kids’ books that shaped who you are today!)
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