When my parents cleaned out the house that had been their home for 30 years and moved across the country to be close to grandchildren and far from snow, they brought with them several boxes of my old belongings that had been stored in their attic for close to 20 years. Among them was a box of books I (or my sister) had deemed keepers from the many children’s books. Over the past few years these books have received much love from my own children and some even from myself. Here are a few highlights:
Perhaps my favorite book as a child: Waggy and His Friends, by Patricia M. Scarry, wife of Richard Scarry. For me, this was the first book that looked at the classic question “what do our toys and stuffed animals get up to when we leave the room?” This question has been recently addressed in the popular movie series “Toy Story” and in the book series that start with Toys Go Out and Doll People, among others. But for me it was all about Waggy, and Lion, and Lumpy and Bun-Bun and their adventures. Finding this book again after so many years was like finding my old friend and I still enjoy reading it and looking at the pictures. My kids and I immediately made a shoe box train. I simply cannot underestimate the joy this book has brought.
For my son, it was all about the Richard Scarry books contained in the box, but mostly What Do People Do All Day? Many hours, perhaps days, of his childhood were spent studying this book. The pages have fallen out and been lovingly taped back into place. I recently found him looking at this book again in a quiet moment. Timeless.
Another favorite that is still getting a lot of use is I Can Choose my Bedtime Story. Ingenious. The front pages have small tiles of pictures, icons if you will, with a page number. Each story is exactly two pages long and has several illustrations. Every child will have their own favorites, but for me, the image of the dog whose tail was so active the frustrated townspeople finally tied a paintbrush to it to make him useful has always stuck in my memory. I still read aloud to my daughter most nights and when we’re between novels, we take a night or two to go back to this one.
There were other books that were less memorable or perhaps didn’t translate over the years. One book whose plot I don’t remember, but whose title has always stuck with me is The Muddle-Headed Wombat on the River. On a more advanced level, the chapter book The Dew Drop Inn was one of the first puns or word plays I appreciated.
Our house is full of books now and both kids have bookcases spilling over in their rooms. I wonder what volumes they will store away to share with their children in years to come. I wonder if Waggy will survive to entertain a new generation. I hope so. I wonder if Percy Jackson will live on to share adventures with my grandchildren, or if my daughter’s set of Laura Ingalls books will get passed on. So many books, so little time. What have you saved?