I used to volunteer for a nonprofit called SMART (Start Making a Reader Today), which is based on the simple yet brilliant concept that reading aloud to a child will encourage him to become a reader himself. I loved the couple of years I volunteered for lots of reasons, one of which was my love for children's literature. I definitely was the kind of volunteer who told my kid, "You pick one and I pick one." I loved going through the old classics and finding out what was new. And the illustrations! Oh the lovely illustrations...
Having a kid of our own at home, I've been excited to buy our books for Abe's library (almost all from Goodwill, what amazing things can be found there!) and to really hang out in the children's section at the library. Here are a few books that we've been digging these days:
1. The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by Mordicai Gerstein. Our friend Julie sent us this one a few weeks ago since she knew about my love for the movie Man on Wire about Philippe Petite, the artist/acrobat who strung a wire between the two towers of the World Trade Center and did a high-wire dance early one morning in 1974. It's a beautiful movie and a beautiful book. There is a page in here so beautifully illustrated that I want to copy it and frame it for Abe's room. Beautiful. How many times can I say beautiful?
2. I Love My Hair by Natasha Anastasia. Thanks to this book, Abe doesn't cry at all when I comb out his hair every night. Not. At. All. Thank you, Natasha Anastasia.
3. Don't Let Go! by Jeanne Willis. I like when books "deal with" an issue by making the issue not an issue. In this book, the girl's parents are divorced but I didn't even notice this the first time I read it. This is, I think, one of the best ways for a child to realize that a less-than-ideal life circumstance they're experiencing does not make them abnormal. (It's sort of like this boardbook we have about a dad and his kids, and one of the kids just happens to have dark skin. No explanation is given, and it's not even that great of a book. I just love that there's a book with this white dad and a black son, doing nothing significant besides flying kites and cooking hot dogs.) The first time I read this book to Abe, I could hardly make it through. The next day, Ted asked me, "So did you have trouble getting through the end of Don't Let Go!?"
Um. Yeah. Did you?
Okay, so I teared up a little too.
Abe and I read it again this afternoon, and I just went on and let loose. It's a good one, I'm telling you. I love this book.
4. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. It's a classic for a reason. I am ashamed to admit that I had never read it from start to finish. Then I saw the trailer for the Spike Jonze movie being made right now, and I made a point of getting it from the library. Abe adores this book. We read it three times in a row today. We get to the end, and he immediately says, "read it again." I have no idea why, but the trailer makes me tear up, every single time. Yes, I'm a crier, but still.
"I'm gonna eat you up, I love you so."
Maybe it's that line. Maybe it's just all that beauty. Maybe I miss being a kid myself. Maybe that's why I love kids' books so much that I would eat them up.