Editors Review Nostalgic Childhood Books
April 29, 2022
Beloved Children’s Books Offer Learning Opportunities
Like many of you, when I was a toddler, I was drawn mainly to picture books, specifically the ones authored by Eric Carle. I cherished the large but simple and colorful illustrations, easy-to-read writing, and most of all, the central theme of animals parading across the white pages of each of his books. When I first learned how to read, the book I gravitated to was “Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?” In this book, a single colorful animal fills each page, accompanied by the repeated narration of “What do you see?” along with the response from each animal foreshadowing the next. The animals range from, like the title suggests, a big brown bear and a playful yellow duck to a smiling green frog and a friendly blue horse. My parents would often read this book to me before I was able to, excitedly pointing to each animal, unable to spell out the black letters. Once I did learn to read, it was my go-to book that always put me in a cheery mood and of course, greatly expanded my vocabulary for colors and animals (although I could never pronounce “yellow” or “bird” correctly). And I don’t know why, but my personal favorite was always the blue horse.
Penn Tackles Separation, Maturity
If you are a true literature connoisseur, which I am, you likely have heard of “The Kissing Hand” by Audrey Penn. This book tackles real-life contemporary issues regarding separation. When I was younger, my mother would read this book to me in my bed every night before the first day of school. The protagonist, Chester Raccoon, was sad because he had to go to school; I identified with Chester in this way. To ease Chester’s pain, his mother kissed his hand so that Chester could look at his hand to remember her love. I have vivid memories of my reliance on the comfort that this book brought me while I was away on the first day of school. Although I cannot disclose the last time my mother had to read this book to me (due to reputational reasons), I can admit that if it hadn’t been for this book, I likely would not have acquired the education that I now hold.
Jeffers’ Fosters Love of Learning
When I learned to read at a young age, it quickly became the only thing I would do. Countless hours were spent reading picture books in our small family room as I raced through words at lightning speed. One book that really resonated with me, and still does today, is “The Incredible Book Eating Boy.” Like me, Oliver, the protagonist, loves books, but he eats them instead of reading them. The endearing and funny joke as I look back on it is that Oliver is literally consuming books, just as I was consuming them in a different sense. Then, the book was a lovable way to encourage me to read a lot and to remind myself that reading was a pastime that should be enjoyed, but now that I am older, I recognize the greater importance the book had on my life. “The Incredible Book Eating Boy” and his quest for knowledge as he ate books illustrates to me now that knowledge is power and that it’s all right to want to be smart. Sometimes, curious children are labeled as nerds in school, but this book taught me otherwise and I hope now that my love for books and knowledge never fades.
Mystical Stories Inspire Connection
The iconic childhood book series, “Rainbow Magic,” follows two best friends as they met different, colorful fairies and went on various fun-filled adventures. Each fairy they meet has a name that corresponds with their power. For example, there was Ruby the red fairy, Cherry the cake fairy, Katie the kitten fairy, and many more. Each fairy helped the girls solve their problems while the girls helped with the fairy’s problems. Not only did this book series add light and happiness into my life, but it was also a great topic of discussion, leading to amazing friendships.
Hoban’s Book Inspires, Cultivates Discovery
As a young child, I adored books, the glossy covers, the thick pages, and the way my parents animated them as they read me a bedtime story. Like the creature of habit I am, I would make my parents re-read the same books to me, night after night. A favorite of mine was “Bread and Jam for Frances” by Russell Hoban. First published in 1964 the story chronicles Frances, a young badger who only likes what the title suggests, bread and jam. Despite her badger family as well as her best friend Albert enjoying a variety of foods for lunch and dinner including string beans, pickles, and soft-boiled eggs, Frances refused to consume anything besides bread and jam. While Frances’ family’s love of veal cutlets and spaghetti and meatballs may not have rubbed off on me as I am a tried and true vegetarian, the lesson of being open to trying new things influenced me at a young age. If nothing else this book reminds me of home and undoubtedly toasted bread with jam.
Dr. Seuss Encourages Hope, Creativity
Growing up I always gravitated towards Dr. Seuss books because I loved their imaginative stories, rhyming sentences, and colorful pages. One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books was “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” In this story, a little kid in a yellow outfit, portrayed as the reader, is venturing to many abstract places and meeting many different people. The book uncovers the vastness and mystery of the world around you. As a little kid the book made it fun to think of all the different possibilities in front of me. This book would (and still can) get me excited for any challenge I have in my life as it reminds me that no matter if I get scared or lost, there will be something worthwhile on the other side. On top of the message behind the story, I love the colorful scenes and imaginative creatures Dr. Seuss comes up with to create an escape from the present through a more whimsical reality.
“Chester’s Back” Elevates Spirits Through Humor
When I was little some books that always made me laugh were the Chester books by Mélanie Watt. These books were about a duel between Watt, the author, and a cat named Chester. The argument between them was always that Chester wanted the story to be about himself and would try to take over writing the book with his red marker. These books were filled with humor and joy. If I was ever in a bad mood, I would ask one of my parents to read me a book from the series. It always elevated my spirits, making me feel instantly better. These books would make both my parents and I laugh, even if we had read it many times. Even though these books didn’t really have a hidden message in them like most children’s books, they were still at the top of my list to read.
“Tilly Witch” Influences
As a child, having my parents read to me before bed was one of my favorite parts of the day. One book, in particular, I wanted to read over and over again was “Tilly Witch.” I read this book so many times, that at some point I memorized the entire storyline for line, yet I still insisted on reading it each night. Written by Don Freeman and published in 1969, “Tilly Witch” tells the story of a witch who forgot how to be mean, and can no longer frighten children on Halloween. She has to return to witch school to relearn how to be mean. Tilly’s story and the messages revolving around the non-conformity it carries have stuck with me from a very young age.