There’s a thing going around Facebook, one of those self-reveals that range from how many tattoos you have and if you’ve every been arrested (1 one never). People are posting the 10 books that most influenced them.
No one tagged me in this game, which is good. It’s impossible for me to do a list except I know that To Kill a Mockingbird is at the top. Instead, I’m listing books that I read sitting bedside with voracious book loving daughters, Emma and Abigail. I’ll tell you now, so you aren’t disappointed, Maurice Sendak and Shell Silverstein don’t make the list. Too scary; too sad.
- A Child’s Garden of Verses, Robert Louis Stevenson. My mother introduced me to these sing-song, gentle verses that celebrate the idyllic. “How do you like to go up in a swing, Up in the air so blue? Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing Ever a child can do! Up in the air and over the wall, Till I can see so wide, River and trees and cattle and all .,,” from The Swing. Each time I read it, I felt the air grow wide beneath my feet, the chains creak, the world open up. Still.
- Make Way for Ducklings, Robert Mcclosky. We lived, then, in New Haven, but frequented Boston to visit friends. The mama duck, leader of her soft feathered flock, was everything mother should be. AND they got their own statues.
- Dr. Seuss. Several, but my favorite was always Horton Hatches a Who, even though it’s a nail-biter. The Grinch was too scary. I still exclaim on occasion: “I said what I meant and I meant what I said.” Creed.
- The Night Before Christmas, Clement C. Moore. By age two, Emma memorized this. It took me until second grade to do the same. Magic and Christmas and oh-my the presents, and the reindeer. Well, it just always worked for me.
- A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens. Read in portions in the days leading up to the big day, it is the lesson in appreciating what you have, giving back, sharing, mindfulness. Dickens language is meant to be read aloud.
- When Mooses Come Walking, Arlo Guthrie. I know. But we raised our girls to “Alice’s Restaurant” so the quirky book (I can also hear Arlo’s panhandle flat Midwest voice reading it a line before me) and THE Alice’s drawings. Giggly and just enough to make you look out the window for the moose.
- Goodnight Moon, Margaret Wise Brown. I know. I know. Many parents hate this book. With a passion. I’m on the other side. I love the simplicity. My pledge to my children was that I would be there. And I am, even though they now live in London, UK and Brooklyn.
- As I Was Crossing Boston Common, Norma Farber (author) and Arnold Lobel (illustrator).
One of the all-time best read-aloud books! Initially, I thought the animals in this animated alphabet were mythical. But, I reached N for narwhal and thought hmm. The girls and I learned about creatures that became part of our lexicon and understanding of the world. Whimsy and worldly and I still tear up at the ending. It is long out of print, but find it, find it.
- Madeline, Ludwig Bemelmans. There’s problems with this book. But, the beautiful rhythm of reading aloud and the spunky heroine keep it on my list.
- The Edge of the River, Harriet Percoski (author) and Betsy Fitzgerald (illustrator). I had to do it. The story was written by my mother as a birthday surprise for Emma. Years and years later, I made some drawings to go with it. Mostly, I love my mother’s story about a girl who travels far because she knows she can always come home. My wise mother knew some things about life.
I’ve read hundreds and hundreds of children’s books, the favorites, many times over, but these are the ones that I can find in my heart. Any day.