Who knows just how much children are influenced by the cadence of language in the books we read to them? I believe little ones are instinctively attracted to patterns and rhythm, syllogism and resolution. Affection for lyrical language remains with us in adulthood, as does the desire for a tidy ending. The absence of apparent conclusion elevates some literature to a status that endures, as it forces adult readers to wrangle with potential interpretations.
You may not find all four of these, my favorite children’s books, still in print:
Guess How Much I Love You
written by Sam McBratney
and illustrated by Anita Jeram
I own the board book edition of this story, which was first published in the mid-‘90s and has been translated into at least 27 languages. Its charming ink and watercolor illustrations are reminiscent of Beatrix Potter’s, but the book’s affectionate tone is entirely contemporary. All traces of stern authoritarianism are missing. It expresses an indulgent postmodern society’s perspective of childhood.
We Help Mommy
written by Jean Burger Cushman and illustrated by Eloise Wilkin
We Help Daddy is the counterpart to this Little Golden Book, which is so old-fashioned that some of today’s parents might actually consider it inappropriate. I can’t stop loving this 99-cent book, because I remember the day my own little girl acted it out by trying to bake a pie unassisted. She placed a pizza pan on the kitchen floor, sprinkled a box of Jell-O mix over it, and plopped maraschino cherries on top.
Roll, pat. Roll, pat.
I’m making a treat for Daddy.
It’s a funny man, with two cherries for eyes,
and one cherry for a mouth.
“Daddy will be very pleased,” says Mommy.
And she puts it in the oven.
We Help Mommy is a story about the author’s own children, Martha and Bobby Cushman. Holly Reed and Larry O’Loane posed for Eloise Wilkin’s classic illustrations. The book was published in 1959.
Le Petit Prince
avec dessins par l’auteur,
Antoine de Saint Exupéry
I almost never write in the margins of books. My copy of Le Petit Prince is an exception, although I can no longer recall sitting in class as my animated high school French teacher, Christiane Edmondson, explicated. My favorite chapter is when the prince meets the fox:
—Viens jouer avec moi, lui proposa le petit prince. Je suis tellement triste . . .
—Je ne puis pas jouer avec toi, dit le renard. Je ne suis pas apprivoisé.
Please read this lovely story in the language in which it was first published in 1943.
written by Robert Frost and illustrated by Ted Rand
The jacket flap copy for this book, published 17 years ago, says, “In 1916, when Christmas trees cost a dollar, Robert Frost wrote a poem that he described as a Christmas circular letter.” Children love the poetry of the plainspoken. The child in each of us hopes for the ending of this book.
Had I thought through this countdown, I should have chosen a simpler syntax for the titles of the final six posts of NaBloPoMo. Four weeks ago, I started with a meme, so it’s fitting to conclude this week with the seemingly innocuous question:
What are your four favorite children’s books?