I remember that as a child I read Winnie the Pooh, all manner of fairytales, Eloise, Madeline, Stuart Little, and Charlotte’s Web, but the story that stands out most is The Little Engine That Could. I grew up believing that you could do anything if you put your mind to it. I still believe that.
I don’t have any children, but I do have some children’s books on my shelf, mostly a few of my own tattered and scribbled upon childhood tomes that I somehow rescued from the give-it-away or trash piles. The Little Engine That Could was not among them, so a few years ago, for what reason I can no longer recall, I bought a brand new copy from a 1991 printing. The original copyright year is 1930 — that’s what I call a long shelf life.
Even as a child, I loved biographies, but I remember listening to more biographies than I read. I think it was Riverside Records that had a wonderful series of recordings called “A Child’s Introduction to…” Each record was the story of a different composer, narrative tales with sound effects and, of course, music. I knew the life stories of Bach, Beethoven, Mozart as if they were my best friends. The series no longer exists, but I do look for it from time to time, hoping that someone will discover the masters and reissue these aural productions on CD. Meanwhile, I still like Peter and the Wolf along with the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and a few years ago I found some good audio children’s tales, notably Beethoven Lives Upstairs and Mr. Bach Comes to Call.
In the last few years I have bought a few “new” children’s books, all of them about artists of one sort or another. A real favorite of mine is a very creative tale called When Pigasso Met Mootisse, by Nina Laden (Chronicle Books). Hyperion Books for Children have some great biographies — the two on my shelf are Ella Fitzgerald: The Tale of a Vocal Virtuosa, and Alvin Ailey, both by Andrea Davis Pinkney and Brian Pinkney. My most recent acquisition is Roxanne Orgill’s If I Only Had a Horn: Young Louis Armstrong with illutrations by Leonard Jenkins (Houghton Mifflin Company).
What’s on your shelf – past or present? What books you remember from your childhood? What are the children you know reading today? Send me an email [devra AT devradowrite.com] and I will compile and post a list.