Monday, July 23, 2012

It all started with a book...

Cover of first edition, 1900
Today I'm extolling Everything I Need to Know I Learned from a Children's Book: Life Lessons from Notable People from All Walks of Life, which is currently in our special sale for a gratifyingly low price. If you have or know kids and if you love children's lit yourself, it's a sure thing. Librarians and teachers will recognize many old favorites and, like me, discover  new titles to explore while revisiting others with new eyes. This book is a joy on so many levels, revealing what makes these accomplished people tick and how a particular book shaped their view of themselves, the world, and its possibilities. 
Like Michael Patrick Hearn (and Leslie Murphy, who designs our catalogs), my most memorable book as a kid was The Wizard of Oz. Hearn, who edited the annotated edition, tells why it enticed him: "The violent upheaval of the Kansas cyclone introduced me to the unforgettable power of literature.... Baum was so convincing to me that he was not telling a story. He was relating history."
I also adored the Freddy the Pig books, which bestowed the pleasures of a quality series to devour. As their author Walter Brooks commented, "Children are people; they're just smaller and less experienced. They are not taken in by the smug playfulness of those who write or talk down to them as if they were dull-witted and slightly deaf." "Essentially, they evoke the most subversive politics of all" writes author and Freddy fan Adam Hochschild: "a child's instinctive desire for fair play."
Children's and YA writer Judy Blume hid her library copy of Madeline because she loved it so much and sincerely thought it was the only one in existence.
"There are no parents to demonstrate or remonstrate" says Maurice Sendak of Harold and the Purple Crayon. Author of The Polar Express Chris Van Allsburg agrees: "I loved the idea that I would be in control and create my own world." For Marc Brown, creator of Arthur the Aardvark, Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are gave him an ambition for his life.
For  country singer Brad Paisley, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was the be all and end all; so much so that he named his firstborn William Huckleberry Paisley! 
Edmund Dulac
"At the American school where I was sent in hopes that it might turn me into a well-behaved young lady who spoke English, I was introduced to books: Dick and Jane and their tame little pets Spot and Puff. Just that morning we had trapped tarantulas in the yard and witnessed Iluminada receiving a spirit."
Growing up in the Dominican Republic, novelist Julia Alvarez later found that the Arabian Nights modeled a means to rise above dictatorship, that stories possessed a power to save lives.
"I didn't want to live like a doll in a dollhouse" says actress Kathy Bates of her fondness for Rumer Godden's Impunity Jane. I enjoyed many of Godden's books in my younger days, but this is one I'll have to seek out!
Finally, both writer Bobbie Ann Mason and actress Julianne Moore singled out Little Women for its empowering portraits of young women as writers and as fully endowed beings able to choose their own destinies.

10 comments:

  1. St. Exupery's "The Little Prince"-- because to be a poet is to hear the stars laugh when no one else does.

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  2. Loved Little Women growing up, actually I still love reading it everyfew years. Growing up I was a fan of The Witches, The BFG, and Charlie and Chocolate Factory!!!

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  3. SOOOO TRUE! Everything I've ever needed to know I learned from Dr. Seuss and Goodnight Moon:) Then again, I'm a little kid @ heart!

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    1. Both of those are in the book .... it would be awfully strange if they weren't!

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  4. I find children that read are the most interesting to talk too. they have such interesting imaginations. When I was a kid my favorite books were the Junie B. Jones series, Amelia Badelia, and anything Shel Silverstein. Books are awesome! lol

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  5. Richard Halliburton's "Complete Book of Marvels" taught me to keep a valid passport and never to own more clothes than I could fit in a large duffel bag. Sometimes the journey is more fun than the destination.

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    1. I wanted to add that, a while back, I was looking for this book to give to my nephew, but found it was out of print. Maybe some enterprising publisher could bring back Halliburton's work. I"m sure a new generation would be inspired by it, as I was.

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    2. I'll have to scout around for it .... maybe Daedalus can re-publish it someday!

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  6. Wilhelm's got it right - anything Dr. Seuss. He made the unimaginable believable. The best childrens story teller of all time.

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