Thursday, April 2, 2015

Your Favorite Children's Books, Part 2

What fun I am having!  Last week when I posted the blog about Bill Martin, Jr.'s children's books, I had no idea so many people would respond.  As I began receiving comments, I invited everyone to send me their favorite titles and stories, and the response has been terrific.  I think you will enjoy reading what people have shared.

Serendipitously, I discovered that April 2, 2015 is International Children's Book Day, an annual observance sponsored by IBBY since 1967, with the date selected on or around Hans Christian Andersen's birthday.  You may read more at  Reading the comments sent to me by followers of my blog and face book page is a great way to celebrate books!

Janis Moore wrote:  "I was also taken to Pratt each week for piano lessons, and I always went to the library.  The first book I remember reading for myself over and over again was The Boxcar Children.  I was in the second grade when I found that book.  A little later I read all the Nancy Drew books and many, many others.  My Mom did not like for me to read in the car (hard on the eyes, she said).  I tried to sit right behind her in the back seat coming home from Pratt, so she could not see I was reading."  Janis added:  "I read to my children from day one.  One of the great memories they tell me is of sitting in the living room before bedtime (away from the TV) reading all the Little House books."

The first 19 stories in the Boxcar series were written by a 1st grade teacher named Gertrude Chandler Warner. Publication began in 1924 and has continued with well over 100 books.  Four orphan children made a home in an abandoned boxcar in the forest, and when they are found by their grandfather, he moves their boxcar to his backyard to remain as a playhouse for the children.  In a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the original book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children."

On face book, Janis's daughter Kim Moore Fritzemeier wrote:  "As an elementary student, I loved the Encyclopedia Brown series.  And I still love mysteries today!  My mom read the Little House books to us, and I read them several more times myself."

The Little House series was loved by many blog followers.  Eileen Loomis wrote:  "I loved soooo many books and still do.  My favorite series was the Little House books.  I would read and reread them, and of course, I still love watching it on tv.  One of [my son] Kyle's first books that we received when he was a baby was Peek-A-Boo!  I See You!  Bruce and I read that one to him so many times we both have it memorized!  I have enjoyed reading it to our grandson, Lincoln."

The Little House series was originally published between 1932 - 1943 based on the memories of Laura Ingalls Wilder's childhood.  Her daughter Rose helped edit the books, and the series has remained in print to the present.  Most people remember the edition illustrated by Garth Williams, but the cover at right is from the first edition.

Face book followers often replied with the titles of their favorites.  Ellie Penka Doran named Maurice Sendack's Where the Wild Things Are.  Leslie Edwards Helwig, a teacher, chose "any and all Little Golden Books, as well as Pickle Books and books by Judy Blume.  Another teacher, Jana Salmon Lamb, chose The Mitten, by Alvin Tresselt, illustrated by Yarolava, and Tikki Tikki Tembo, by Arlene Mosel, illustrated by Blair Lent.  Referencing Brown Bear, Brown Bear mentioned in last week's blog, Brenda Minnis wrote "...a favorite that my kids knew cover to cover."  Ruth Ritchey remembered The Bobbsey Twins series.

The first of the 72 books in the Bobbsey Twins series was published in 1904 (the cover of which is pictured at left) and the last in 1979, although a separate series was published from 1987 to 1992.  The main characters are two sets of fraternal twins in the Bobbsey family, 12-year-olds Bert and Nan, and 6-year-olds Flossie and Freddie.

Nancy Moore included several children's classics among her favorite books.  "I loved the Little Women series, Brother Grimes Fairy Tales, Heide, Tom Sawyer, Huck Fin, My Bookhouse Books...and almost every book I read that I just don't remember now!  I discovered the bookmobile the summer I was 11 and rode my bike to it faithfully all summer.  Fifty-six years later I can still close my eyes and see it and smell it.  My family would get after me for taking my books and reading them at outdoor picnics instead of playing ball or whatever other activity.  I can remember family visits to my Great Aunt & Uncle's farm in Indiana and sitting under the huge lilac bush and reading.  Thanks for the opportunity to reflect on those golden times." 

 Little Women, pictured at right in a 2-volume printing from the early 1870s, is one of those classic children's books I did not read until a few years ago.  How I wish I had known the fictional Jo March when I was a girl!  Written by Louisa May Alcott, the story of the four March sisters--Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy--was first published in two volumes in 1868 and 1869.  It was loosely based on the author's own sisters.

Sometimes an author's success comes from sharing a family member's story more directly.  Steve Shively suggested I might find much in common with a Nebraska writer who told her father's life story in Old Jules.  Mari Sandoz had a difficult relationship with her father and was shocked to hear his dying request that she tell his story.  It was this true life story of a pioneer that reminded my friend of my efforts to publish the story of Isaac Werner.

Alice McMillian Lockridge chose 365 Bedtime Stories by Nan Gilbert as her favorite.  The image at left depicts "...Mrs. Apricot sitting on her front porch with the children of What-A-Jolly Street."  When I saw the cover image and title, I recognized the book as one in a box of books my mother-in-law saved from my husband's childhood, although his edition has a slightly different cover. 

Fairy tales were often mentioned as favorites.  Lillian Kateman wrote that " favorite books as a child  were Fairy Tales--especially The Dancing Princesses."   She added, "Truthfully, I did not like to read, but liked being read to.  I cannot imagine that now...My sister is five years older, so she read to me at times.  In Seventh grade I discovered mystery books.  Then, I enjoyed reading."  She also mentioned Eric Carle's Very Hungry Caterpillar as a favorite.

My request for people to share favorite books brought a very special message on face book.  When I was practicing law in Dallas, TX, I had a fabulous secretary.  She had been the firm's receptionist and had asked to interview as a secretary, although she had no experience.  I agreed to train her, and that decision was very lucky for me!  She was wonderful.  She loved her job, and I think only one thing would have caused her to leave her demanding job with its long hours--a new baby girl.  I was delighted to receive her face book comment:  "Speaking of childhood books, we were helping our daughter and son-in-law move last week and I came across a book of nursery rhymes that you gave her on her first birthday.  She is now 27."  (I'll refrain from sharing all the kind things we had to say about each other after all these years.)

Others shared favorites that spanned generations.  Katie Roenbaugh Schwalb wrote:  "I had no idea that Bill Martin, Jr. was from Kansas...Our family has Brown Bear, Brown Bear Memorized."  She added:  "Did you ever read Socks for Supper, by Jack Kent?  I loved that book as a kid.  I also loved I am a Bunny, by Ole Risom and illustrated by Richard Scarry.  Michah's Dad (Fred) and Micah [her husband] both loved Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina.  William [their son] loves it now too--he laughs every time we read it.  Isaiah [their older son] didn't like it much, and I agree with him.  It doesn't resonate with me, but I still love reading it to William because he loves it and I like the idea of Fred and Micah also enjoying it!"

If you have noticed the regular comments at the end of many of my blogs by someone who calls himself  "Blog Fodder," you may have noticed he left a comment last week identifying King and Princess as his favorite childhood book.  However, many months ago he shared a different title with me, and on his recommendation, I bought it and read it.  Farley Mowat, was a Canadian author and environmentalist, whose book Never Cry Wolf was made into a movie with the same name, released in 1983.  He is best known for writing about the Canadian north, but his delightful book about an unmanageable, beloved, climbing dog is the one Blog Fodder recommended to me!

I am not finished sharing stories and book titles, but the rest will be shared next week.  I'll end by saying that I too had many Golden Books, among which my favorite was The Color Kittens.  Walter Farley's books about horses, including The Black Stallion, were my favorite books by a single author.

I have more to share next week, and if you hurry, I'll try to make room for your favorites too!

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