Sunday, March 25, 2018

Reading a beloved book to an almost-five-year-old

HALLIE EPHRON: Last week we were in Brooklyn, and we brought our granddaughter, Franny, a copy of an all-time favorite from my own childhood, One Morning in Maine. It's written and illustrated by Robert McCloskey, more famous for Make Way for Ducklings and Blueberries for Sal. My husband picked up a hardback copy at a yard sale (of course) and, much as I'd loved it, I wasn't sure Franny would.

In Blueberries for Sal, the models for Sal and her mother are McCloskey's daughter and wife. In One Morning in Maine, Sal is older and loses her tooth. Her baby sister Jane in the book is based on McCloskey's younger daughter, Jane.

The house is their house in Maine. The beach, their beach.


The story is lovely, but the illustrations are what make this book so readable, especially read-TO-able. The detail in those black-and-white ink drawings is extraordinary. And the story of a little girl who loses her first tooth before she can put it under her pillow? Irresistible! (Our Franny keeps poking at her front teeth and proclaiming one of them loose, but it isn't... not yet.)
Here's Sal, digging for clams and realizing that the tooth that's been loose in her mouth is now gone.

It's a long book (a lot of words) and a gentle story. So we weren't sure if Franny, a bumptious active girl who watches Frozen endlessly and has a fleet of mermaids, would like it. She sat through it the first time. Then asked my husband to read it -- two more times. And then she sat and paged through the pictures.

It helps that Franny and her parents have a little house on Peaks Island off the coast of Portland, Maine, where she goes every summer. The McCloskey's family house was on on Outer Scott Island in Penobscot Bay, off Deer Isle in Maine. It's since been donated to the Nature Conservancy.

As I watched Franny paging through it I remembered my own fascination with the book's illustrations and its lovely story about a little girl growing up.



My favorite odd fact about McCloskey is that he grew up in Hamilton Ohio, home of the Mad Anthony Writers' Conference and many of my favorite fellow writers! His illustrations are on display in their Heritage Hall.

What's the book from your childhood that you'd most like to share with the next generation?  

76 comments:

  1. Oh, I do love Robert McCloskey’s books!
    There are so many wonderful books . . . precious, timeless stories . . . to share with children, it’s hard to pick just one.
    Don Freeman’s “Corduroy” comes immediately to mind as does Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” . . . .

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  2. I loved that book, too, Hallie. How special you can share it with Franny. I now have a great goddaughter and have already given her Blueberries for Sal. So wonderful to share books with children!

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  3. I love this book! And read it to my daughter when she was young. I also love Make Way For Ducklings and Blueberries For Sal. I recently went to a baby shower where we were asked to bring an unwrapped book for the new baby's library - so I brought 4 books, of course. Ha! I love the older ones (and brought Green Eggs and Ham - my daughter was a Samantha and is called Sam), but I also like newer ones. Alexander and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad Day is an example. Lovely story, Hallie!

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  4. "One Morning in Maine" is definitely one of my favorites. I still remember Robert McCloskey's interview on a long ago Sunday Morning show. The background for that interview was the same set of hills in the book.

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  5. Too many to pick just one--but, like you, Hallie, it's the combination of the words with evocative pictures that I enjoyed the most. Pictures you could linger over and dream about the words as they filled in the pictures and made the story come alive. You can guess that my nine nephews got a lot of books for birthdays and holidays when they were all youngsters.

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  6. "The Little Engine That Could", Matty Piper, a classic tale published in 1930. Engaging and inspiring tale about perseverance. Wonderful graphics easy read with youngsters 2-4. Still remember today.. I think I can, I think I can,....can you?

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  7. McCluskey is a new author for me -- I love discovering children's books that are timeless and lovely to read (even if there's no child to read them to!). I'm off to find a copy of Ducklings and/or Mornings. Thanks for the introduction, Hallie.

    I have a shelf of my very most favourite books from my own younger days, and the most-loved ones are pony stories by Ruby Ferguson. I never owned a pony, but I loved reading about Jill and hers.

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    1. Oops - that should be McCloskey, of course.

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  8. Madeline. My daughters loved the rhyming text and the pictures.

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  9. I'd have to add Eloise which was brand new and just out when it was given to me. Written by Kay Thompson and illustrated by Hilary Knight. I remember poring over its its double-sized, fold-out map of the interior of the Plaza Hotel showing Eloise's journeys up the elevators and down the stairs. Talk about words and pictures that go together! Whenever I see a pug dog I think of Weenie. A sublimely oblivious little girl whose parents barely showed up.

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  10. A Present for the Princess by Janie Lowe Paschall. A little blind boy grows a strawberry for a princess. She loves it, kisses him and restores his sight. Or that's how I remember it.

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    1. That's a new one on me... I looked it up on Amazon. Not in print, sadly. But the reviewers all say it's the ONE they wish they still had to read to their kids. Putting it on my husband's list of what to find at yard sales.

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    2. AbeBooks.com is a great place to find old books. Sellers from around the world ship to your door.

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  11. My mom is the one who instilled a love of reading in me. She would read to us, take us to the library and bookmobile, and we'd get a book for Christmas. A couple of early ones I remember are LITTLE BEAR by Else Holmelund Minarik and Maurice Sendak and BREAD AND JAM FOR FRANCES by Russell Hoban. And I also remember a version of Stone Soup. For chapter books, I remember being read to (and then owning myself) the Old Mother West Wind books. I still have them.

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    1. My granddaughter is NAMED for Frances in the Hoban books. LOVE THEM!

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    2. I love the Frances books, too!

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  12. Wonderful books!! When my kids thought they out grew (never possible) Blueberries for Sal, Make Way for Ducklings and One Morning in Maine we brought out Homer Price (also by R.M.). If you haven't read it, go for it! Sweet, funny, endearing, etc.

    I have a friend who grew up in Deer Isle and she said that the illustrations of the town in One Morning in Maine are fairly accurate. It was amazing to go there and see it in person. If you get a chance, I highly recommend it ... Childhood come to life!

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    1. I HAVE read Homer Price. I think I still have the copy I grew up with. Remembering the donuts!!

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  13. I loved Chicken Soup with Rice. I used to quote it in my monthly reports at work. I read it to my granddaughter, who enjoyed it, although now at six (and a half, which is very important!), she reads books to me. I still read with her little brother when I can get him to sit still for a few minutes, which is not easy. I got Here We Are out of the library for their current visit, and will try to read it to him this evening.

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    1. One of our go-to newborn gifts is the Nutshell Library's miniature book package of Sendak books. Chicken Soup with Rice. Alligators All Around. One Was Johnny And my favorite PIERRE (who only would say I don't care...) Along with the Carol King album REALLY ROSIE which put all those songs to music.

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  14. My children's imaginations were caught by Rainbow Fish, Harold and the Purple Crayon, The Giver, and any of the Eric Carle books. The Very Hungry Caterpillar and The Very Angry Ladybug are brilliant books, with so many different and subtle lessons buried in the illustrations and texts: days of the week, colors, time of day, numbers, fruits and vegetables. It never got old to reread them with my girls. And the stories were so humorous, too.

    If you want a child to learn to read early, I highly recommend C D B!, by William Stieg. Children as young as three, if they know their alphabet, can read this book aloud and make sense of it. It empowers them, reading-wise. C D B = See the bee!)

    I'm a Hamilton native, as well. That area seems to have spurred a lot of creative writing, for some reason. The author of Hillbilly Elegy grew up in and wrote about Middletown, which is in the same county.

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    1. By the way, I didn't share picture books from my own childhood for two reasons: One, it was in the early fifties, and about the only books I can recall from then were Golden Books.

      Two, I learned to read early, and my best childhood memories are of reading to my own self in second grade: Bobsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys. Prior to then, I have no memories of anything other than nursery rhymes.

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  15. Hallie--I had to laugh at your whole-hearted appreciation of McClosky's book. For a distinctly different view, check out this sly commentary on the most annoying and the best picture books to read to little kids. https://www.shondaland.com/inspire/books/a19093048/the-least-annoying-books-to-read-to-children/

    The commentary showed up on the Lit Hub post yesterday. I got a good laugh over the too many blueberries hitting the bucket--and appreciated the good suggestions on favorite picture books.

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    1. plink plank plunk ... going to check out that link now.

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    2. What a terrific essay! Anyone interested in book recommendations, follow Katie's link.
      (And... McCloskey was a better illustrator than he was a writer.)

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  16. I just looked up Present for the Princess on Amazon. It is selling for $125.00. If your husband sees it at a yard sale BUY IT FAST. If I remember from my children's literature class, Blueberries for Sal was one of the first picture books to be printed in color after the WWII embargo in colored ink was lifted.

    I loved magic as a child.. well that part of me never grew up. My favorite picture book from child hood was 5 Chinese Brothers. I also loved the Dr. Doolittle series, Mary Poppins, and the Oz books. and to many more to mention.

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    1. and Many Moons by James Thurber.

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    2. MANY MOON! I'm still squeezing blood out of turnips and turnips out of blood!

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    3. Definitely, Many Moons is on the top of my list. The other book is The Reluctant Dragon by Kenneth Grahame (The Wind in the Willows.)

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  17. I have no idea about kids books that I would want to share with the next generation. Given that I have no kids of my own and my nephew lives in Tennessee, it isn't likely to be much of an issue for me anyway.

    I know that I would definitely love to foster a love of mysteries for anyone that I would be in a position to give a book to. Also, though they'd have to be older, there's a great fantasy series called The Chronicles of Prydain by Lloyd Alexander that would be a great gateway for a love of fantasy writing.

    But since that is for what is laughingly called the Young Adult age, I'm not sure that really fits what Hallie is asking for. I read it at 10 years old through 13 I think. But it still looms as one of my favorite reads ever.

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    1. Ah yes. Good old Doli! (grumble, grubmble)

      For mysteries, I liked the Encyclopedia Brown series, which IIRC was for 8 or 9-year olds.

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    2. Jay, I don't know that fantasy series - and Jim, I do remember Encyclopedia Brown.

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    3. Jim, at the time I read it, Taran Wanderer would've been a cool person to be.

      Hallie, it was pretty good for boys at least, I'm not sure it would've appealed to girls in the same age group or not.

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    4. Students and adults are always surprised that SHREK! was a short picture book before it was a movie with several sequels. Another gift from William Stieg!

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  18. I am sitting in our library/sitting room as I read your blog and I just turned my head to see our (I have two older sisters) copy or MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS on the shelf next to me. All of his books even to Southerners speak loudly of childhood. I also loved the Enid Blyton picture books and later her books for older children. We went to the library every week at least once. My mother was an avid reader and many of my early memories are of being read to. My favorite was THE BEAR'S PARTY about koala bears and being individuals.

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    1. Oh, Atlanta, we read all the Enid Blyton's to my daughter, and then of course she read them herself. We still have most of them.

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    2. How did I miss Enid Blyton... they were published right when I would have been wanting to read them.

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  19. Oh, this is a hard one! When it came to reading and being read to, I got thrown into the deep end of the pool. To books from childhood still inspire me - The Little Engine that Could and The Little Prince.

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    1. Two books, make that two books - URG!

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  20. I didn't come across Make Way For Ducklings until I came to the States, but my kids loved it. My favorite at that age was The Tree Fairies because the illustrations were so lovely. I still have it. Of, and Enid Blyton's The Faraway Tree. I guess I was obsessed with trees and magic!

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  21. The Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace. The first book -- Betsy Tacy starts when they are five.

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    1. My favorites as well. I still have all of them, and a wonderful commentary/biography of the Author Maude Hart Lovelace, as the books are based on her life and her friends.

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    2. My first memories of reading involve Betsy-Tacy, and later, Tib. Maud Hart Lovelace once spoke at the local Pomona library and I dressed up to hear her speak, just knowing she would somehow single me out as her biggest fan. Opportunity missed.

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    3. I have them all as well, Helen! I wanted to be a writer because of Betsy! Wendy that is so cool that you got to hear her speak!

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    4. Loved Betsy Tacy (and Tibb!) books (Spell check tried to change it to Betsy Taco...)

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    5. All the Betsy-Tacy fans are gathering for a conference in August. Seeing the places Maud wrote about is so moving that some first-time visitors get tearful! https://www.betsytacyconvention.com/

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  22. Do you remember A HOLE IS TO DIG? (Mashed potatoes are so everyone can have enough.) . And LITTLE BEAR, of course, which I loved but which was always kind of weird to me. But my favorite favorite favorite is James Thurber's MANY MOONS, which I could read and read and read. It's about Princess Lenore, who falls ill from a surfeit of raspberry tarts, and won't be well again until her father, the king, brings her the moon. Have you read that?

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    1. I loved A Hole is to Dig. It has Sendak illustrations before he was a big name in his own right.

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  23. That'll teach me to add before I read the comments. YES! And I know where you are where you are at sixes and sevens.

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    1. Just nice that we think alike. One of my best birthdays, mom took us to be the audience on a children's radio show. I got to choose the book to be read. Of course I chose Many Moons.

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  24. One of my favorite children's books is called Hee Haw by Ann McGovern. It's the humorous retelling of an Aesop's fable about a boy and his dad walking a donkey to the market for sale. Along the way they meet all these people who give them advice--the man should ride, the boy should ride, and finally that they both should carry the donkey. It's a cute book with a great message about not following advice blindly!

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    1. I"m sure I read this book! I think when Was teaching elementary school.

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  25. I was a bookworm even as a kid. I read Make Way for Ducklings too! One of my favorites was Lois Lenski's Texas Tomboy. It is hard to find these days. I also liked Dr Seuss; Mom thought those books were too strange!

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  26. So many, but I'll try to be brief.

    Beginning with the two poem books of A. A. Milne, When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six, then straight on to the two books about Pooh and Christopher Robin. The McCloskey books, of course, Ducklings, and the others. As a child I loved Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, the books about BaBar the Elephant, Peter Rabbitby Beatrice Potter (it's the illustrations!), and, if this isn't too old, the books by Holling Clancy Holling: Paddle-tothe-Sea, Minn of the Mississippi, Pagoo, Seabird. I had them read to me, then read them myself, over and over.

    I thought of another, Mr. Popper's Penguins, which my cousin had, and I read when our family visited. I know I'm forgetting many, many books.

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    1. The Milne books are perfect for reading TO kids. Special favorite for me Now We Are Six.

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  27. I didn't read McClosky as child, or to my daughter. How did we miss these? I will certainly be looking for them for my granddaughter. Favorites from my childhood would be topped by Winnie the Pooh, and I still have all my childhood editions. Babar and Madeleine were up there, too, both of which we've already started reading to Wren, along with so many of her mom's favorites, including Shirley Hughes "Alfie" books, Eric Carle's The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Snowy Day, The Runaway Bunny, and, of course, Goodnight Moon. That little book never fails to amaze me. It is Wren's favorite. She goes to sleep with it, and the other day she brought it to Rick to read to her. So sweet!!!

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  28. The first books I remember are Mother Goose and A Child’s Garden Of Verses. Still beloved but my copies disappeared into my children’s childhood. I suppose my favorite all time books in the whole wide world are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by that probable paedophile, the Reverend Charles Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. What can I say? They are brilliant. Even if he was deeply flawed.

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    1. I love them, too, Ann. But rereading them they are really quite sophisticated. The language is gorgeous.

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    2. I agree with Hallie, Carroll's books are too sophisticated for the little ones.

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  29. I love "Ducklings" and "Blueberries for Sal" and remember them fondly from my own childhood. Another favorite is "Snowy Day" by Ezra Jack Keats, and I think my all-time favorite is "Corduroy" by Don Freeman. And "Mike Mulligan's Steam Shovel" by Virginia Lee Burton!

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    1. Burton's book Choo Choo was H1's favorite. I used to know it by heart :)

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  30. Oh, I loved the McCloskey books as a kid and as a children's librarian. My personal favorite from childhood was anything by Bill Peet - Kermit the Hermit, The Caboose Who Got Loose, The Wump World, and Eli. I loved sharing those with the hooligans when they were young. Interestingly, when I was an intern working for Weston Woods (a company specializing in filming children's books) I asked about Peet and found out he would not sell the film copyright to any of his books and, yet, he started his career as an animator working for Disney on Snow White. I've always wondered about that.

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    1. My absolute favorite for Bill Peet is Huburt's Hair Rising Adventure.

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    2. Bill Peet! Never heard of him - going to discover.

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  31. I'm going to second Jenn's comments about Bill Peet. Sadly, his books seem to be fading from memory, but they are wonderful. My niece and nephew have several. More modern picture books would have to include Mo Willems. Simpler illustrations, simply written, but absolutely wonderful! (And yes, there is room in this world for simple yet brilliant and complex and brilliant).

    Moving on to older books, I would have to include the Chronicles of Narnia and Trixie Belden.

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  32. When I was a child my Dad would read a book to my brother and I about a wild dog named Nikki and a bear cub named Neewa. Each night my Dad would ask which book we wanted to hear and we would always say "Nomads of the North", the book about the dog and bear cub. The book was written by American author James Oliver Curwood (1878-1927. Recently I decided to look up some information on this book and the author. Mr. Curwood was from Michigan and although he never graduated from high school, he passed the entrance exam and attended the University of Michigan for two years. He was an adventurer and visited the Canadian Northwest (and other places) on a regular basis. His writing was in a style similar to Jack London. He wrote over 30 books and enjoyed commercial success in the early 20th century. The movie, "Nomads of the North", which starred Lon Chaney and came out in 1920, is said to be based on the book, and it is a love story about a Canadian Mountie who is chasing an innocent fugitive who "stole his woman." In 1961 Disney made a movie called "Nikki, Wild Dog of the North", also based on the book. One of Mr. Curwood's best known books was "The Grizzly King, a Romance of the Wild". Although he started life as a hunter, he changed his views and became an early environmentalist. His novel, "The River's End" was the fourth best selling book in the USA in the year it was published. (1920) The author died at age 49. He was on an adventure trip in Florida and was bitten by a spider. He suffered an allergic reaction and infection to which eventually took his life. His home, Curwood Castle, located in Owosso, Michigan is now a museum. Each year, the first full weekend in June, the Curwood Festival and Parade celebrates his life. In Michigan there is a park and even a "mountain" named after him. I realize our Dad was apparently only reading us the portion of the book which related to his youthful audience. And how he must have made up portions of the story. And how boring it must have been to read the same book to us every night! I recently ordered a paperback copy of the book and look forward to reading it for myself.

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  33. My grandson, who is now thirty-two, loved my gifts of Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and Donna O’Neeshuck Was Chased By Some Cows. His son, now four shares his dad’s excellent taste in literature.
    The Giving Tree still makes me cry.

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  34. ARghh! Accidentally lost my post again. One of my favorite childhood books was Randolph, the Bear Who Said No, written by Faith Nelson and illustrated by Nedda Walker. It's from 1946, so it must have originally belonged to my sister who was born in 1944, ten years before me. But, it was passed down to me, and I still have it. I had many Golden books, published in the late 50s and early 60s, some of those of the early Disney films, like Sleeping Beauty and Lady and the Tramp. I still have my complete set of The Best in Children's Books published in the late 50s and early 60s, books which contained stories from Aesop's Fables to Dickens to early Maurice Sendak. Here's a description and a link about these books from Nelson-Doubleday. "Between 1957 and 1961, Nelson Doubleday publishers, contributed the most amazing children’s books encapsulating the classical stories of the time with contributions by some of the better known illustrators and artists of our times. This was a very important series as it contained much original material from 7 Newberry Winners and illustrations from 8 Caldecott Winners. It is a series of Rare Books." https://www.rarebooksdigest.com/2011/04/10/best-in-childrens-rare-books/ I've read the Bear book to the granddaughters and they seemed to enjoy it.

    There are lots of books from when my children were growing up that I've shared with the granddaughters, too. I love books from Aubrey Wood and Don Wood. There's King Bidgood's in the Bathtub, Quick as a Cricket, Piggies, The Napping House. There's one of my most favorite, Heckedy Peg from them. Great illustrations and all so much fun. Of course, Mauric Sendak and Shel Silverstein are favorites. Mercer Mayer's Little Critter books, the Berenstain Bears, and Marc Brown's Arthur books were all fantastic. Janet and Allan Ahlberg's Jolly Postman books were so much fun with reading the letters in the pockets. Goodnight Moon was an early read when they were babies. Dr. Seuss was a staple. Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith's books, such as The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man were a riot. My daughter liked Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish, and my son liked the Time Warp Trio books by from Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith. As the kids grew into chapter books, we all delighted in Roald Dahl's Matilda, The BFG, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and more. The Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar, and Holes from him was amazing. Charlotte's Webb and Judy Blume books were there. Paul Jennings, an Australian author, was a big hit at our house with his weird, scary stories in books including Unreal, Undone, and Uncovered. Bruce Coville had books that were especially interesting to my son, such as Goblins in the Castle and My Teacher is an Alien. The Indian in the Cupboard and Pippi Longstocking were read and loved. Katherine Patterson's books, including The Bridge to Terabithia, and Cynthia DeFelice's Weasel and Lostman's River (one of my all-time favorites) were enjoyed. Then on to more and more chapter books and more advanced reading. And, of course, one of the best finds was Harry Potter when my son was in fourth grade. I was looking for books that would keep him interested in reading and in the school bookfair was a book entitle Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling. There were two copies of the hardback, which had just come out in the U.S. I bought one copy and the other didn't sell. My son and I loved Harry Potter before he was cool. Hahaha! I know I've left books and authors out, but it's been such fun to share these books again with the granddaughters.

    Oh, and Hallie, what a wonderful reaction to your favorite childhood book by your granddaughter. Just perfect!

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  35. I forgot one of the picture books both my children an granddaughters were wild about. Piggie Pie by Margie Palatini is one of the best read-alouds ever!

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  36. You’ve all mentioned so many of my favourites and my children’s favourites. I’ll just mention a few that I didn’t see; Horton Hears a Who; If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, and for older readers; Margaret Sidney’s Five Little Peppers and How They Grew, and Arthur Ransome’s Swallows & Amazons series.

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  37. A Child's Garden of Versus by Robert Louis Stevenson

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  38. Captain Kangaroo read Make Way for Ducklings...

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  39. THANKS EVERYONE! I'm going to post the complete list on Facebook today

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  40. Yurtle the Turtle, my number one favorite. Gave it to my grandchildren when they were born. A really good nursery rhyme book was in the mix, you have no idea how many children do not know them! Blueberries for Sal makes me think of my mom, it was one of her favorites, and mine, too. Love all the McCloskey books.

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